Quick Kicks: Thoughts From Sunderland 2-0 Morecambe

Finally some football was played at the Stadium Of Light last night, and here's what we made of it.

It may have been three days late, but football finally returned to the Stadium of Light for this season, and brought with it plenty of talking points.

How did debutants Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher get on? What system was used? What can we expect from the new-look attack?

Read on to find out all this and more!

What The Gaffer Said

Martin O'Neill was positively purring after the game. Not necessarily about the result, however, but the manner in which it was achieved.

I'm delighted. I thought we played some really lovely football, particularly in the first half.

Morecambe played very well. They came here and tried not play - not only that, they were competitive throughout the night.

I was really glad we got that second goal to take any anxious moments away. I'm just delighted we've won.

Both of James' goals were well-taken - he did brilliantly for the first from the whipped-in corner.

The second goal was excellent, too. Perhaps James was thinking he might stay on to score his hat-trick, but he had been booked and I didn't want to lose him for Saturday.

We're in the hat for the next round, and that's important. We came through with flying colours, I think.

There were one or two anxious moments where we were a little sloppy, but overall it was very pleasing.

Frankly, O'Neill has every right to be delighted with some of the football on display from Sunderland. It was very good to watch.

People will point to the modest opposition, and it is of course a relevant observation to make, but there was a fluidity and comfort on the ball that had nothing at all to do with who they were playing. (MG)

System

There has been speculation all summer regarding what kind of system Sunderland will use this season and, with the attacking personnel now in place, that question can surely be answered.

It was a 4-2-3-1, with Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon, and James McClean interchanging positions furiously behind lone-striker Steven Fletcher.

What was particularly striking was the width in the side. Whether it was the full backs or the wide players, the players were very keen to stretch the pitch as much as possible at all times.

Looks like it is going to be very fun to watch. (MG)

Adam Johnson Impressions

He is quite clearly a quality footballer but we all knew that. Lovely poise and comfort on the ball. It looks like he was born with a football on that left foot of his.

What really stood out was how he attracts people to him when in possession. Time after time he twinkled his way in from the right touchline, dragging defenders with him like a magnet being pushed through iron filings.

If I was Craig Gardner, I'd be begging O'Neill to let me be his first choice right back because Johnson will ensure whoever plays there has all the space and time in the world to be a genuine attacking influence. (MG)

Steven Fletcher Impressions

It was a difficult game for Fletcher given his lack of pre-season. He looked a little like Stephane Sessegnon did against Arsenal - sluggish and rusty. A man rediscovering his touch.

There were plenty of positives though, even if they were on the subtle side. His movement in the penalty box was excellent for starters. Every time the ball was wide, he was peeling off the back of defenders, usually to the far post. In time, there is every reason to suspect his colleagues will learn what kind of service he needs.

He was involved in the first goal too, making a clever near post run that opened the space for McClean to get into to head home. He was unlucky not to get an assist himself with a delightful little lay off to Jack Colback in the first half, too.

Encouraging signs - not least that he was actually in the box every time he needed to be - although it may be a case that we don't see the best of him for a few weeks yet. (MG)

A New Cattermole, Who Is Identical To The Old One

The attacking players will grab the headlines, but it was Lee Cattermole who bossed this one for the majority.

The captain's role has always been one of winning it and giving it to a better player. He has struggled with the second part of that at times though not though any real fault of his own. Too often he has looked up and seen the better players double-marked or simply unavailable.

Now when he looks up he is not short of options at all. Johnson and McClean have freed each other and Fletcher giving centre backs something to think about has freed Sessegnon. Failing that, the full backs are a touchline-hugging out ball.

He no longer has to try and force the play himself or try and take responsibility to create. Could we finally be about to see the Lee Cattermole we always wanted? Tougher tests obviously await, but lets hope so. (MG)

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