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;
It's been quite a remarkable season so far. Obviously, not in a good way, given that we are still rooted to the bottom of the Premier League. I know as a football club we like to do things using the louder and harder ways - but this season is ridiculous even by our ludicrous standards. However, today's game against Spurs seems set up to be the dullest home fixture to date.
Chelsea’s ninth away victory in a row at the SoL (equalling their own top flight record) was perhaps no surprise. It made it a staggering 17 Chelsea wins (home & away) from the last 18 games against Sunderland. The 3-0 win at The Bridge just over 3 years ago looks ever more anomalous. Chelsea scoring four goals against the team propping up all others in the Premier League would also not cause the startled spilling of too many cups of tea in the Match of the Day green room. However, not all was par for the course at the SoL.
After that incredible game of football there was a mixed bag of good and bad performances – which I guess you’d expect when we score three but concede four. Here are our thoughts on the heroes and culprits;
Jozy Altidore scored. Phil Bardsley scored minutes after an own goal. We scored from three set pieces. John O’Shea scored. We scored three goals. We witnessed one of best performances from an opposition player at the Stadium of Light. Erm, what's ganin on?!
It was nice that, the not being bottom thing, yet before another ball is kicked by Sunderland we're back where we started last weekend. In truth, it should have little impact on today's game, which was intimidating even when we were riding high in 19th. Our inability to score away from home makes games like this quite frighteningly important.
I've been watching Steven Fletcher with some interest over the last few weeks, trying to fathom whether he is unfit or something a little more serious. I feel like I'm treading on thin ice questioning a player so rightly held in high regard by us fans - but is he a victim or part of our problems?