AT THIS stage last week, we were looking ahead to the visit of Chelsea with cautious optimism. Nicklas Bendtner was here to lead the line, with Gyan and Sessegnon playing behind him. For the first time this season, on paper, we looked genuinely dangerous.
However, merely hours before Lampard, Terry, Mata and Sturridge took to the playing surface at the Stadium of Light, we discovered that our talismanic African frontman was heading away to the UAE, and will be spending the rest of the season playing in front of minuscule crowds in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, our glass half-full outlook on all things Sunderland AFC of last week was drained with this announcement, and cast doubts on the mutterings that have been coming out of the club recently.
Within a day of Steve Bruce openly telling the media that Gyan would be saying, he was gone. Although Sir Niall's statement made valid points as to why the deal isn't all bad news for us as a club on the whole, it still rings somewhat empty to the fans who are growing disillusioned with our high-name profile players leaving the club on what is quickly becoming a regular basis.
What we didn't need at a time of unrest and uncertainly like this is Chelsea to visit the Stadium of Light. Although the scoreline would suggest a fairly close encounter, Villas-Boas's men were realistically miles ahead of us.
Bendtner would be forgiven for wondering what he was thinking when he agreed a loan move, as he spent the afternoon chasing long balls and was offered little support throughout the game. He may be used to the entertaining, fast-paced football that Arsenal like to play on the floor, but quickly had to get used to challenging two world-class centre backs in the shape of John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic for numerous high balls launched from our defence. Welcome to Sunderland, Nick.
Wes Brown was probably the only man in red and white to come out of Saturday's game with any credit, and in what is the only positive surrounding the club at the moment, he continues to look like a tremendous player. Unfortunately for him, Titus Bramble didn't seem fully fit, but he has been without a game for a long time, and should only improve with more minutes on the field.
There was no positivity, however, surrounding Phil Bardsley's cowardly stamp on Chelsea new boy Juan Mata, and the club can have no arguments about the four-match ban that has been imposed on the right back. The â€˜Scot' is quickly gaining a reputation for being an irresponsible player, following his horror tackle on Fabricio Collocini, and it is important that Bruce has a word in his ear before our team is further tarnished with the dirty brush that has been sweeping Lee Cattermole for some time.
Sunday is a busy day in the North East, with a giant huddle of runners pitting themselves against the challenges of the Great North Run, and a giant huddle of footballers visiting the Stadium of Light in the form of Stoke City.
The lack of chances created against Chelsea should see Bruce change both the system and the personnel for this one, and we surely must finally see the 4-4-1-1 formation scrapped in favour of pushing two up front and trying to offer more in attack.
Stoke away last season saw us wilt under the aerial bombardment that they threw at us, and Simon Mignolet may well be the most important, and busiest player in our ranks come 3pm on Sunday afternoon.