Chelsea start to pay the price for summer of cost-cutting

One defeat does not constitute a crisis at Chelsea these days, not even an emphatic 3-0 beating by Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. However the manner of the defeat, the way the Double winners were so comprehensively outplayed, hints at deep-seated problems within the club that cannot be fixed with double sessions on the training ground.



The seeds for Sunday's embarrassment were sown last summer, in the wake of the most successful season in the club's 105-year history in which they became champions of the Premier League and winners of the FA Cup.

In the weeks that followed the team's open-bus parade around the streets of SW6, the club's oligarch owner Roman Abramovich and his board made the decision to trim around £20m from the wage bill, by releasing some of their most experienced players.

Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Juliano Belletti were told their lucrative contracts would not be renewed, while Ricardo Carvalho and Deco were also shown the door. How the manager Carlo Ancelotti could have done with some of those players on Sunday, when injury had robbed him of John Terry and Frank Lampard, and Michael Essien had got himself a silly three-game ban for a crazy foul in stoppage time of Wednesday's victory over Fulham.

Arsenal's midfielder Samir Nasri could barely hide his delight yesterday as he mulled over Chelsea's thrashing by Sunderland, with his own club just two points behind.

"I was very surprised. 3-0 at home against Sunderland? No. I'd thought perhaps at the most a draw, or a 1-0 defeat, but 3-0? No, no, no. Not at all," he said. "But the absence of John Terry, Alex, Essien as well, that made a big difference. Chelsea have lost Ballack, have lost Deco in the midfield, Ricardo Carvalho also and they haven't really replaced him. So much the better. Their first-choice XI is good but the group I think has lost a bit in terms of quantity and quality compared to last season."

For Chelsea, the situation is "worrying". Florent Malouda, whose substitution on Sunday was met with incredulity and derision by Chelsea fans, admitted: "It was the decision of the coach. The most important thing is the fact that we lost. Happily we are still at the top of the table but it is true that to lose in that manner is a bit worrying."

The complacent thinking that guided Chelsea's decision to dispense with five senior players, and replace them only with a pair of lightweights in Ramires and Yossi Benayoun, was in evidence once again last week with the sacking of Ancelotti's assistant Ray Wilkins. Whatever Abramovich's misgivings with Wilkins' coaching ability, the timing of the decision was unnecessary and has clearly not been received well in the dressing room. It did not cause Sunday's defeat, but to lose someone who was so close to the players did not help matters.

Terry did not play on Sunday having aggravated a back injury but that did not stop him speaking out against the decision to sack Wilkins. In his programme notes, the captain wrote: "It was an unexpected decision but we have to move on and stay calm. Ray was a great person to have around the football club. He would pick you up when you were down and, if there was a problem for any players or staff, he would be the first one to call them to make sure everything was OK and to ask if there was any way he could help.

"And all that came alongside his knowledge and coaching ability on the football field."

Abramovich clearly thinks he can do without Wilkins, much as he thought he could do without the likes of Cole, Carvalho and Ballack last summer. In recent years, the strength of the squad was clear from one look at the bench, where such as Cole, Belletti, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Wayne Bridge used to warm their well-paid backsides. On Sunday it included Josh McEachran (aged 17), Gael Kakuta (19), Jacopo Sala (18), Jeffrey Bruma (19) and Patrick van Aanholt (20).

It is true Chelsea are carrying some casualties – Frank Lampard, Benayoun, Terry and Alex were sidelined on Sunday – but they are not alone in having to cope with injuries to important figures. However, few other squads look quite so stretched by the loss of a couple of players.

The goalkeeper Petr Cech yesterday admitted Chelsea were "all over the place" against Sunderland. He said: "We weren't compact enough. We were all over the place. We changed the back four but it is everyone's mistake."

Ancelotti can work on his team's defending. However there is little he can do about the muddled thinking of Abramovich and his advisers, who on Sunday witnessed the consequences of what they did last summer.

Bouncebackability?

Chelsea have struggled after they have fallen behind of late, while Manchester United seemingly never accept defeat.

* Chelsea's record after conceding first in last five league games
14 Nov Sunderland (h) Lost 3-0
7 Nov Liverpool (a) Lost 2-0
30 Oct Blackburn (a) Won 2-1
25 Sept Man City (a) Lost 1-0
17 April Tottenham (a) Lost 2-1
Points 3

* United's record after conceding first
13 Nov Aston Villa (a) Drew 2-2
26 Sept Bolton (a) Drew 2-2
11 Sept verton (a) Drew 3-3
3 April Chelsea (h)Lost 2-1
21 March Liverpool (h) Won 2-1
Points 6

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Life & Style
Wasp factory: 1.3 million examples of the Vespa scooter have been sold in the last decade
motoringIconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books