Barclays Asia Trophy - What Have We Learned?

The aftermath of our frolicking in the far east has settled down - so what exactly have we managed to fathom about our new look side?

Full backs are key in a 4-4-2, so having some would be preferable.

Okay, so Jack Colback looked strong when coming up against a good number of attacking moves. In fact, he possibly looks as strong or even more so as a left back than as a central midfielder – where his short passing wouldn’t fit into our new (or indeed old) ethic.

The crux is this - it cannot be overstated how much the full back is key in the style of play we are aiming for. The old school play of an “overlapping full back” with a number two or three cutting over the path of a number seven or eleven, especially given Paolo Di Canio’s love of inverted wingers where Adam Johnson or Emanuele Giaccherini would cut inside to have their wide play substituted by an attacking full back, is the vital attacking movement of a 4-4-2. Colback is strong and clever enough to succeed most of the time defensively, but the pace he lacks shows when coming forward. Frailties are even more worrying on the right side of defence. The Gino Peruzzi transfer saga shows how much the club realise this, and need to act.

Despite his low profile arrival, El-Hadji Ba is a great young prospect.

Signing from Le Havre with only a small handful of professional games under his belt, his arrival was so obscure he appeared on the teamsheet for friendlies against amateur Italian elevens before even being officially announced.

At twenty years old, it is clear that he is at least to be used on the fringes of first team options, and from his showings he could well play more of a part this season than what may have been first imagined. The screamer of a shot saved by Heurelho Gomes against Spurs stands out, but his speed and dexterity mark him out as one to watch.

Emanuele Giaccherini will shine on a decent pitch.

Compared with other nations, few Italian internationals have graced the Premier League since its inception. For one slightly odd reason or another, the list of legitimately good wearers of the Azzuri we’ve seen falls short somewhere after Mario Balotelli, Roberto Di Matteo, Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola and a certain grey-haired striker who had a late-nineties cameo with the Smoggies (our own boss, something of a Yukio Mishima reading Matt Le Tissier, was never capped). So despite the global allure of the Premier League, for a club like Sunderland to sign any Italian international seems quite a coup which would have raised a few eyebrows from the banks of the Wear to the shores of Sicily, to use an old phrase. Certainly it is a signing which has made esteemed [sic] pundits such as Trevor Francis descend into idiocy (“you have to ask, why did Juventus let him go?” were the words of a man either with an astonishingly limited idea of the modern transfer market, or perhaps more likely a man with a petty axe to grind).

What you get from the people who have watched Giaccherini for years is the same word over and over again – grafter. Fought his way through the lower leagues in Italy to finally grace the Juve and Azzuri shirts, looked great in a somewhat major international tournament, and while not being the most gifted Italian of his generation he has a work rate and application to outshine most and make his talents known. Moments in the Asia Trophy games, especially against City, have shown his talent for skill on the ball and creative vision. After having years of untalented “one-hundred percenters” grace the red and white shirt, it would be healthy to remember that it is perfectly possible to be both.

If it lasts, a recharged, re-energised Wes Brown could be the kingpin of Sunderland’s play this year.

There was a moment in the match against Spurs where Di Canio’s system of beginning play from the back came to be seen for the first time for me. Brown strolling forward with the ball, so elegantly balancing the years of experience on his shoulders. A physical presence who can work the ball. If he stays fit, you can imagine him dictating play from the back two, orchestrating the defence as he turns the play into attack. Just, please, keep him fit.

Cabral is good.

Pretty good, pretty, pretty, pretty good. It is easy to say that on a shambles of a pitch a tough, defensive CM would stand out alongside more creatively endowed players, but with the Swiss anchor man is far from a Lorik Cana or Lee Cattermole type hardman. He holds his line well, using his physicality intelligently in positional play rather than making himself known haphazardly in any part of the pitch. While his goal against Tottenham was very well taken it was a rarity, although his positional sense to get into the play at that point in time underlines his qualities.

I do still hope that we don’t regret laying off Alfred N’Diaye, though.

Jozy Altidore is a good player, but needs sharpness and confidence.

It’s something approaching a cliché, perhaps, but this happens when talking football because often football is simple. Jozy has come to us after scoring many goals in the Dutch league – a league set up where systems and poor defences can make it easy for average strikers to look pretty good – and needs to draw a line after failing past apprenticeships with Villareal, Hull City and Burzaspor. Despite impressing me with great link up play, especially with Stephane Sessegnon with whom he appears to be making the first signs of a formidable partnership with, his missed opportunities against Spurs, one of them bewildering, cannot be overlooked. It is difficult, however, to not have faith in the American to overcome any difficulties. Paolo is a motivational man but improvements will not happen due to his authority alone. This is why we are looking for dedicated individuals which I can certainly see in Altidore and our other signings, and why the likes of Titus Bramble and Phil Bardsley have seen the door.

Have you thought of anything else? Leave us a comment below!

blog comments powered by Disqus