Tactical Analysis: Sunderland 1 Chelsea 3 | Rafa gets his 1st win


In a fairly comprehensive winning display by Chelsea, their main marksman, Fernando Torres was able to continue his goalscoring exploits from midweek, with another 2 goals and an assist in this match as Rafa Benitez claimed his first Premier League win for Chelsea.


Sunderland vs Chelsea Line-Up’s

Sunderland played a 4-4-1-1 formation in this fixture with Connor Wickham playing as the lone striker, with Sessegnon playing in behind to assist him. Sunderland set up with ‘2 banks of 4’ and this was to try and negate any Chelsea attacks. However, this didn’t pay off for Sunderland, as Chelsea’s 3 central players were able to outnumber Sunderland’s 2 central players.

Chelsea set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Victor Moses starting on the right side of the 3. The rest of the side lined up in their usual positions, with the exception of Juan Mata, who lined up centrally in this fixture, instead of in a wide position. Just 20 minutes into the match, Romeu sustained an injury and Oscar came into a role he hasn’t played at Chelsea before, in the deeper midfield role.

A Confident Fernando Torres

For Chelsea fans, it is very positive to see Torres getting his confidence back, as was shown in this contest. Torres’ level of confidence was highlighted when Chelsea won the penalty just before half time. Instead of letting another player take the penalty, Torres stepped up to take his first Chelsea penalty and duly scored his second goal of the match.

Torres Playing Off Defenders Shoulder

When Torres is at his best, and with confidence, he is able to play well and score goals when he is able to play off defender’s shoulders, and get in between defenders. This means he is able to use his speed and intelligence to get in behind and create goalscoring chances. In this instance, Fernando Torres was fortuitous in that the ball ricocheted off the defender for Torres to have a shot, but showed what can happened when he gets in between defenders.

The first Chelsea goal was another example of Torres being able to get in between defenders. The cross by Eden Hazard was inch-perfect and allowed Torres to get in front of Danny Rose and score the first of his two goals in the match. Whilst the ball can’t be played to him every time he makes a run, this also means the defenders are dragged out of position and the creative trio in behind are allowed more space to weave their magic.

Another attribute of Torres, when he is playing with confidence, is to get on the end of swift counter attacks. The first of Chelsea’s goals showed this. While he was able to get in between defenders, it was always key that the Chelsea counterattack was swift. From the time that Romeu won the ball 70 metres out from Sunderland’s goal to the ball being in the back of the net was only 12 seconds. This meant Torres was able to position himself brilliantly without giving the defenders time to track his run.

Sunderland’s Shape in Defence

From the first few minutes, it was clear to see Sunderland’s tactic in defence was to let Chelsea have the ball in their own half and as soon as the ball for within 5 metres of the halfway line, press strongly. This was to minimise the space of Chelsea’s front 4 players, and for Sunderland to minimise their effect on the match.

Sunderland Defensive Shape

In their respective defensive halves, Chelsea played 200 passes to Sunderland’s 123. This highlights the difference in the teams tactics in this match. However, the difference between the teams in the attacking half was very minimal. Chelsea attempted 265 passes, whilst Sunderland attempted 257 passes. The stats are able to show that Sunderland were playing more directly than Chelsea, who were playing more short passes and trying to keep the ball better in their defensive half.

Oscar Coming on Instead of Frank Lampard

This was a surprising choice by Rafa Benitez but worked well for the team. As Oscar hadn’t played in the deeper role in midfield before for Chelsea, his defensive ability may not have been adequate for his new role. However, he did well defensively and his added creativity, alongside Ramires, added an attacking unpredictability to the team.

The positioning of Oscar in the midfield 2 also allowed him to get more involved in the game in possession. He played 51 passes in his 70 minutes on the pitch (has averaged 39 passes in 70 minutes this season). The deeper role also allowed him to dribble more at defenders than usual. In this match, he completed 4 dribbles. His season average per game was 1.78 successful dribbles per match. This means he was able to put the defenders under more pressure, as they were forced to either attempt a tackle or another player leave their position, which left an opening elsewhere on the pitch.


Chelsea were in control for much of this fixture, except for a 10 minute period close to half-time. Rafa Benitez in his post match press conference talked about giving the team confidence and this showed in this performance, especially with Fernando Torres. The team will hope to continue the confidence building performances in the Club World Cup, and will hope to return wTrophies trophy.


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