Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Sunderland 0-0 Swansea City

Stu Forster

A dour game at the Stadium of Light yielded a point for Sunderland, even in spite of Swansea's dominance of possession. Here's what we made of it.

What The Manager Said

Martin O'Neill was, understandably, left disappointed and frustrated with the evening's performance, as he outlined to the official club site:

I was disappointed with the performance.

We've got a point on the board and that's probably all we deserved; I'm not sure that Swansea deserved anything more either.

However, we were the home team and the onus was on us to try and break the team down - I don't think we did that for long enough periods in the game.

Neither side deserved the win.

Swansea had the better possession in the first half and I thought we improved early in the second half. We started to apply pressure but just couldn't sustain it.

Swansea got back in it and got a foothold in the game. Titus Bramble did very well to deny them late in the game and had that goal went in it might have been a little harsh, but ultimately it's up to us to do better.

We struggled this evening and that was really disappointing. I'm expecting a much improved performance against Reading on Saturday.

Titus Bramble Won't Go Quietly

With the recruitment of Kader Mangane on loan with a view to a permanent deal, and Martin O'Neill likely to again go hunting for a centre-back in the summer, many expected the days of Matt Kilgallon and Titus Bramble to be numbered on Wearside.

While that may ring true for the former, the latter is doing his utmost to ensure he stays at Sunderland. Bramble was excellent last night, consistently repelling Swansea attacks by getting to the ball ahead of the opposing man, stopping him from turning and getting in on goal.

One of his most frequent flaws is his penchant for being overly hasty and mistiming attempted interceptions, but last night he scarcely put a foot wrong. His late, diving block on Danny Graham ensured a point was salvaged, and was befitting of the commitment he has shown in recent weeks.

Hastiness Breeds Frustration

Yesterday evening's game was never going to be one where Sunderland saw a lot of the ball - Swansea's possession-based game is well known. Yet what was most annoying was that when Sunderland did claim control of the ball, they acted too hastily to do anything of real note with it.

This was not helped by the visitors employing a well-drilled, effective pressing game, but Sunderland did not help themselves with their slack passing and unadventurous movements.

The home side's best spells came early in each half, where they moved the ball forward with assurance and sought to get men into space. Unfortunately, all too often, they looked to appease a restless crowd by getting the ball forward as quickly as possible without sufficient numbers in threatening attacking areas. This was represented in how Steven Fletcher won 11 of his 19 aerial duels, but hardly any of them found a teammate beyond him.

Criticisms Of Martin O'Neill's Tactical Awareness Are Unfounded

A frequent (and annoying) criticism when Sunderland fail to win, or perform to the expected standard, is that Martin O'Neill is lacking when it comes to tactics. For whatever reason, the same old critique - that the game has moved on - comes out, despite there being very little basis for it.

Last night, despite Sunderland relinquishing possession, O'Neill showed his tactical nous with a simplistic move that may have passed some by. Each time Swansea had a goal kick, or whenever goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel had the ball in his possession, both Steven Fletcher and Seb Larsson were instructed to split the triumvirate of Ashley Williams, Chico Flores and Leon Britton that consistently formed around Tremmel's box.

The idea here was to prevent Swansea playing the ball out from the back. This would have two outcomes: first, the visitors were unable to draw their hosts high up the field, as they often seek to; second, it turned any ball from Tremmel into a 50-50 battle in the centre of the midfield.

To their credit, Swansea won plenty of these 50-50s, with Jonathan De Guzman excellent in the middle. But still, O'Neill's actions last night showed he is far from unaware in tactical matters.

Some Sunderland Fans Are An Embarrassment

The booing of Danny Graham was, in my opinion, pathetic - if Graham now decides not to sign for a club that is woefully short on strikers, it will show the small-mindedness of some in plain sight.

However, arguments about Graham aside, the most embarrassing aspect of last night was the booing that accompanied half-time and full-time, as well as the ludicrous reaction from the stands throughout certain stages of the game.

A year ago, Sunderland defeated Swansea 2-0 at home, in a game that mirrored last night's possession-wise. Sunderland were, of course, much more coherent going forward, but defensively the two performances were highly similar. Yet, when without the ball last night, umpteen fans were screaming their displeasure, encouraging the side to lose its well-disciplined shape and gamble on nicking the ball from the visitors.

The booing at half-time and full-time was utterly juvenile, and makes you wonder just who these 'supporters' are. Swansea are an impressive outfit - one that recently won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge - and, despite misfiring in attack, Sunderland held them to a 0-0 draw with Simon Mignolet scarcely called into action.

How certain fans form the idea we have a right to win every game, or perform brilliantly in every game, is beyond me. O'Neill himself has noted our inconsistency. The actions of a section of fans last night were embarrassing, and only detrimental to the hopes of the team.

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