Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce are apparently the guests on Goals on Sunday, on Sky tomorrow. How will they explain away this humiliation?
Colin Randallis still apoplectic after another shambolic away performance …
“Appreciate,” gloated the lippy teenager in blue as she walked past the Sunderland end on the way back to her front-row seat after a wander into the concourse nearly stopped her seeing the fourth goal.
And yes, Chelsea were very, very good. But how good did they actually need to be to sweep aside the feeblest back four and midfield display I have seen in a long time? Which half-decent Premier side would not have found us a doddle today?
No return to the glories of 2001, when Don Hutchison and Kevin Phillips led the way in a super-effective performance that saw us win 4-2.
By the time Chelsea went one up, before eight minutes had been clocked up, they could have scored twice. Our defending was woeful even by comparison with all the other woeful defensive displays on the road this season.
Hearts had already sunk towards ankle level when we saw the midfield line-up announced as Malbranque, Meyler, Henderson and Murphy. Lorik Cana’s combative qualities in that department were desperately missed, though the one mitigation I’ll offer Steve Bruce is that it is difficult to see how he would then have made up the numbers for back four. Why? Injuries, yes. But why was Michael Turner missing? Because our crass decision to appeal against his red card at Man City, a move that never had more than a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding, extended his ban by one match.
How can Bruce take positives from this game? I haven’t seen his post-match quotes yet but hope he won’t even have the nerve to try*.
We had a purple patch of about four-and-a-half minutes after Zenden managed to get back to 5-1 at a time when it seemed the Spurs defeat of Wigan might be made to look a little restrained. And wags were able to say after Bent’s last-second goal that we might have snatched a draw had the referee only added a bit more time.
But gallows humour doesn’t make any execution seem less deadly. A massive defeat was on the cards from the first or second minute.
The only football we played in the first half came in two bursts of cleverness from Malbranque. They led to nothing, of course, and Steed didn’t then last even as long as usual, substituted at half time.
On the 2 part of our 4-4-2 formation, I am torn between modest sympathy for Bent and Jones, acknowledging the abysmal lack of service, and sufficient realism to admit that until Bent’s goal, neither looked remotely like scoring anyway.
Learn from this, Steve and Niall. Act swiftly on our obvious deficiencies. Or settle down to our third relegation battle in successive seasons.
* Late addition: fair play to Bruce. He did cite the weakened nature of the side, but also said: “It hurts – nobody likes to get beat like that, in the manner and easiness of which Chelsea have beaten us.
“Defensively we were just inept and unfortunately we couldn’t cope with them. They were too good for us on the day and sometimes you’ve got to put your hands up and say they were just far too good for us.”