A solitary Cesc Fabregas goal was enough for Chelsea to secure all three points and extend their lead at the top of the Premier League
It was a far from convincing victory for the Blues, but one that proved to be just enough to see the Blues extend their lead over second placed Arsenal by 6 points. Sunderland started off brightly and caught Antonio Conte’s side off-guard.
They piled on the pressure and it seemed like they would actually be able to end Chelsea’s winning streak. But like West Brom, Manchester City and Tottenham before them, Chelsea stayed patient, dug deep and eventually found the winner through a superb Cesc Fabregas finish.
The Spaniard’s winner proved to be the difference maker on the night, as he helped Chelsea double their lead over Arsenal in the table. Fabregas hasn’t been getting chances too often in Antonio Conte’s starting XI, due to the Italian choosing to use Matic and Kante in the center of midfield.
He has only featured 10 times this season, but in those 10 appearances, he has scored thrice and set up three goals for his side. Those three assists include the winner for Diego Costa against Watford, and his compatriot’s equalizer against Manchester City.
Slowly but surely, Chelsea have begun to crave for Fabregas’s creativity in the squad. His vision, ability to pick out a pass and crave open a defence is unrivalled in this side and his performance against Sunderland was just another reminder to Antonio Conte and the Blues of how important he is to their title ambitions.
The Belgian couldn’t travel with his side after picking up a sudden injury, and his absence in that Chelsea squad was felt throughout the match. Hazard’s pace, trickery and his sheer quality was missing on the wings.
Pedro and Willian, for all their immense quality aren’t quite as good as the former Lille attacker. Chelsea will go on to face teams of much greater quality in the future and if this performance was anything to go by, his absence would prove to be much costlier in those occasions and it would be interesting to see how Conte copes with his absence going forward.
Conte’s insistence and demand that his Chelsea side keep improving after every victory is almost customary in every post-match interview and it was no different after his side’s victory against Sunderland.
Despite the Blues managing 10 straight victories, weaknesses and cracks are becoming evident. They seem to have lost their intensity and aren’t able to notch up the same kind of convincing score lines.
Since their 5-0 thrashing of Everton, Chelsea have won only one game by a 2 goal margin, which was the victory against City. Against Middlesbrough, Tottenham Hotspur, West Brom and now Sunderland, Conte’s side only just managed to scrape through. \
With tricky fixtures against Crystal Palace, Stoke City and Tottenham coming up, Conte will be desperate to maintain his side’s lead and improve their overall form.
Willian made his first start for Chelsea since the start of October. The Brazilian couldn’t be a part of the squad after that due to a family emergency, during which Pedro took his place and proved to be a revelation.
The former Barcelona winger continued to be played on the right flank even after Willian’s return and this performance showed why. The 27-year-old didn’t have the best of games, despite having run his socks off and seemingly not ready to play a full 90 minutes just yet.
He did, however, provide the assist for Fabregas goal, but he has been unable to recreate last season’s form and it is unlikely that he will continue to start the next few games under Conte, with Pedro in relatively better form than him at the moment.