What an amazing day Saturday proved to be. At the end, at Stamford Bridge, it read: Chelsea 7 (seven), Sunderland 2.
You have to break out the adjectives to describe this performance. Lets see ... Superlative. Imperious. Marvelous. Supreme. Transcendent. Yeah, that will do.
A thorough match recap is coming soon -- there's so much to discuss -- but for now let me introduce Chelsea Offside's first-ever player ratings post. It just had to be didn't it?
Where does Cashley rank on Chelsea Offside's patented s***-or-not meter? Read on to find out.
CFC Player Ratings
Chelsea 7-2 Sunderland (16 Jan., Stamford Bridge)
GK - Petr Cech 7
The Czech was, by and large, a spectator; in fact, he should've been forced to purchase a ticket. Did well to thwart an early chance -- not Bent's comfortable drive from the right side of the penalty area, but the one that nearly fell to a Sunderland boot in the six -- but will be disappointed not to have kept a clean sheet.
RB - Bane Ivanovic 6.5
Hardly noticeable in all fairness. Less involved going forward than in previous outings, though his attacking services were rarely needed. Provided, as is becoming increasingly predictable, a solid, dependable shift.
CB - Ricardo Carvalho 7
Not much to report. Not much to judge. Did what was asked, as always with a silky smooth approach. Probably unlucky not to have found his way onto the scoresheet.
CB - John Terry 8
England's Brave had just 45 minutes to impress; he was substituted at halftime as a precaution for a minor back injury. He did not disappoint. Though he did little defensive work -- to be fair there wasn't much to do -- he provided the splendid ball that unleashed Ashley Cole for Chelsea's third goal of the afternoon.
LB - Ashley Cole 8.5
Like Terry, Cashley was replaced at halftime; a slight ankle injury suffered in the lead-in to his superbly-taken goal condensing his involvement. It's a shame. Cole, more of a winger than fullback on this day, was a constant threat down the left channel. His goal, featuring a deft touch, even cheekier pull-back, and lofted finish to the far post, was followed up by a precise crossing pass for Chelsea's third through Lampard. There really wasn't much more he could've done.
MF - Juliano Belletti 7
Belletti adds such a different dimension to the holding role. His elegance and range, when on display of course, is something to behold. Appears comfortable in the role, too, though he was slow to react on Sunderland's opener.
MF - Frank Lampard 8
On pace for another 20-goal season. Shocking (sense sarcasm). Added two more in another refined showing to move on to 11 goals for the term. There's no doubt the deeper-lying position is Lampard's most effective. Given time, and space, to create, he's deadly -- just as he proved Saturday.
MF - Michael Ballack 8
Where has this been? Not too long ago I was writing off the German, then there was Saturday's compelling performance. It was like watching Ballack, circa the '08 run-in, out there. It's clear Ballack thrives in an adjusted, flex three-man midfield. He had plenty of freedom, and used it devastatingly. His cushioned through ball for the opening goal was a treat. Deservingly scored, with a trademark header no less.
MF - Joe Cole 7
An enigma. Involved, and energetic, from the start, Joey could've scored within the opening five minutes. In fairness, he could have had his own hat trick if not for some of his vintage 'poise' in front of goal. Told he must earn new contract; more displays such as this, with added lethality, will see terms reached quickly.
MF - Florent Malouda 8.5
Stunning. Malouda, another who favors the 4-3-3/Christmas tree hybrid, proved it Saturday. His goal, Chelsea's second, as described by the Guardian: "It felt suspiciously like game over as early as the 17th minute when Malouda threw some sunshine on damp London. It started when he picked up possession just inside the Sunderland half. Once he shrugged off his nearest marker he cantered, unchallenged, into the penalty area and steered the ball into the far corner of the net." Not mentioned was the pair of cheeky stepovers to create some space for his precise angled shot.
A man-of-the-match performance? Oh, most definitely.
FWD - Nicolas Anelka 9 (MOTM)
Wow. Never thought I would say this, BUT ... is Nicolas Anelka the finest pure striker in the world at the moment? After Saturday, you could make the argument. Movement, accessibility, aggressiveness, first-touch, pace, it all melded together in brilliant unison. Nico really could have had five on this day; if not for a stunning save from Sundeland keeper Martin Fulop and a less-than-enthusiastic finish, it would have been four with relative ease.
Yuri Zhirkov 8
A seamless transition it was from Ashley to Yuri. The Russian, who is just now looking fit, is coincidentally just now looking a threat. Oozes comfort and class when in possession, though his service wasn't particularly great.
It's apparent the Brazilian central defender has yet to return to full fitness. Uncompromising, yes; uncomfortable at times, most certainly. Was late to reach on Sunderland's opener, then looked dumbfounded as the Cats added a second consolation late.