After that fantastic extra time triumph over Chelsea on Tuesday night, we go into the crucial home fixture with Norwich on Saturday with at least something to cheer. However, having marked the West Ham and Norwich games as ‘must win’, a draw at the Hammers means we really need three points on Saturday to keep our slim survival hopes alive. Really, really need three points!
Nights like these is what being a Sunderland fan is all about. It's was not all rosey, there was a contrast in brilliant and poor performances. Thankfully the majority were brilliant, as was Gus Poyet who made the perfect substitutions at the right moments.
You know what, I don’t know either. I’ve got no idea whatsoever. Almost from absolutely nowhere, despite being bottom of the league we burst into a ray of bright, sunny, gutsy brilliance. Sunderland cast aside yet another Champions League team at the Stadium of Light – this time Chelsea at the second attempt to catapult us into the semi-final of the League Cup. Semi-final. Why aye man.
Well, there are definitely culprits who arguably cost us three points yesterday – but there were also some pretty excellent performances. The result might be massively irritating but I have to give credit where its due and the vast majority of our players had an excellent game yesterday.
For crying out loud man, this is all just starting to get a bit silly. Two away games, two clean sheets and god knows how many chances missed leaving us ruing four vital points dropped. It is hard to take, draining even – but I can still claw a fair few positives from today’s draw, namely that it was probably our best performance to date.
Despite the fact the most fans didn’t expect many points to be harvested from back-to-back home games against Chelsea and Spurs, the manner of the latest defeat seems to have left fans a little more gloomy than before (if such a thing were possible). Today we play West Ham United and with that at the forefront of our minds it seems quite apt that we take a look at past results and a player who lost his way at both clubs.
It was always going to be a difficult task to pick up the pieces at Sunderland after the devastation caused by Paolo Di Canio at the club. The size of task for Gus Poyet was a steep one with demoralised players and not the slightest semblance of a team being built. This was not only due to the exodus of three of the stars, a mixed influx of replacements and a third of the squad in the last year of their contracts.
Here we are then, zero points later from our two home games (albeit against quality opposition) and back on the road. Away days have been anything but fruitful this season and our inability to score is obviously a huge factor in our current predicament. Incredibly, we have managed just two goals on our travels and the last one was bafflingly 104 days ago - 104! Lose and we find ourselves at best six points adrift of safety, effectively seven given our embarrassing goal difference. If this isn't make or break - it is definitely make or begin to bend rather precariously.
With a new system in place at the club focusing on passing, the area of the first XI which holds the key to success is our midfield. With an accurate, sharp and technically astute core - winning games through knocking the ball about would be much easier. There is, however, an ongoing debate as to what that midfield should contain in terms of personnel. It is one of the few areas in which Gus Poyet has some depth and the right group of players must be selected in ‘the engine room’ in order to accentuate the team’s pedigree. We have already seen most of our midfielders take on this style - but what is our best midfield combination?
After what was easily the worst home performance under Gus Poyet, here is how the players got on individually...not very well as you might have imagined;