Those of us hoping for some early festive cheer have come away from the Stadium of Light a little dejected at a disappointing display after recent weeks as Sunderland were held by ten-man Birmingham.
A frustrating afternoon means the festive period sees business return to normal on Wearside. After the cheer of last weekend, Sunderland returned to their usual selves to labour against the side bottom ofthe table who were down to ten men for twenty-odd minutes.
Here’s our five first thoughts on a poor afternoon at theStadium of Light.
Back into the bottom three for Christmas. With Bolton andBurton winning, a dour draw with ten-man Birmingham looks a poorer result thanit really is purely for the spurned opportunity to begin clawing our way up theleague.
Sunderland were outplayed at times this afternoon by a Bluesteam who have scored less goals than Lewis Grabban has thisseason alone.
Chris Coleman or not, Sunderland still look exactly what theChampionship table tells us we are – one of the worst sides in the division. 2018will no doubt bring a few more nervy weeks as the prospect of relegationcontinues to haunt the Stadium of Light.
George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch may play with energy butSunderland are missing a creative spark in midfield. Aiden McGeady has beensacrificed in Chris Coleman’s present system but the Irishman represents roughlythe only man capable of a moment or two of magic in the current squad.
The Black Cats simply lacked the nous to breakdown aBirmingham side scrapping for points. Coleman has begun to build a much moresolid platform than his predecessor but this Sunderland side are crying out fora decent ball-playing midfielder who can actually create something.
The Lads had the ball in and around the box several timesthis afternoon but lacked the guile to make it count. Coleman will be all tooaware that quite a few of his men are simply not good enough with the football at their feet. If the Black Catsboss wants to play with it on the ground, he has a way to go with this lot.
Tough slogs at the bottom of the table will continue likethis afternoon’s effort without someone who can fashion opportunities againstopposition fighting for their lives down at the foot of the table with us.
Dead balls are still crap as well
Sunderland have been bad at set-pieces for years – probably sinceSam Allardyce was in charge at the Stadium of Light, and so it continued today.
The only decent dead ball specialist owned by the club,Wahbi Khazri, is currently on loan in France and if Chris Coleman is drillinghis men in training a little attention to set-pieces is surely needed for aBlack Cats side who are unable to capitalise when they have a chance to knock adangerous ball into the box.
Marc Wilson isn’t up to much
Deadline day signing Marc Wilson has failed to impress sincehis summer arrival on Wearside and was dodgy again today in Chris Coleman’sthree-man back line. Say it quietly, but the Black Cats may well be missingLamine Kone.
Wilson has featured in 11 Championship games now and has yetto stamp his mark on Sunderland. He may have cost nowt but the former Republicof Ireland international looks a pale shadow of the Premier League defender hewas at West Brom and Stoke. Perhaps he can only play well in a Pulis defence.
Brum’s Sam Gallagher was more than a match for Wilson thisafternoon until he was given his marching orders. Chris Coleman may well bebusily scouting centre backs as we speak.
The end of 2017 will be tough
2017 has been a truly awful year to be a Sunderland fan. We've only won a handful of games and suffered a painful relegation followed by a dire start to life in the Championship.
Next up it's two tricky away games - Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest - both sides who have already beaten us at home this season. The Black Cats will need to improve markedly on this afternoon's showing to emerge with anything from the pair of fixtures remaining this year.