What The Gaffer Said
The idea was to get two things right tonight – one, the result, and two, to play with confidence.
We played a lot better than we have been and we passed the ball a lot more.
I understand that the fans want to see us move with the ball as quick as possible, but playing that way is too easy to defend against. There is always someone in a position to make a mistake when you play that way.
You don’t need to be so direct to score a goal; you can allow a player an extra pass to create that chance.
I do believe we looked better tonight; it may be difficult to compare as it was a cup competition.
In the first half maybe we passed the ball a bit better than we did in the second. The way that we made them run behind the ball opened up more chances for us.
It is a process, we need to be consistent and do the right things for 90 minutes – not just 10. I’m pleased with the way the players passed the ball.
It is something to build on – especially looking ahead to Sunday’s game with Man City - if you give the ball away against a team like them you’re going to suffer.
Set pieces are very important; we always say that and we worked it well tonight and manged to score.
From there Southampton had to commit a lot more, and in doing that gave us the space to go on and get a second and kill the game off.
However, for some reason we cannot seem to keep a clean sheet and they pulled a goal back, but we held out and got the win.
The game was, in my opinion, one of the strangest I can remember watching from a Sunderland point of view. At times it felt more like a training exercise than an actual contest, with the players ssemingly told commitment to the new shape and ideas outweighed the result in terms of importance.
After the game is won it's easy to back that, but the reaction of both the players and fans would have been interesting had Southampton scored first and no change of mentality was evident. But that could now be crucial in terms of giving everyone something to buy into.
Poyet's comment's about the crowd frustration at the slow passing game was interesting too. Vito Mannone also referenced it after the game. You sense it isn't going away. It was a clear glimpse into the future.
Whilst a lot is being made about Poyet's love of possession football, what I found most striking watching the Uruguayan is how animated he is when his team doesn't have the ball. It was clear he is positively obsessed with players' defensive positioning.
In the first 10 minutes, Southampton saw all of the ball and were making Sunderland look quite appallingly stupid. It was all stemming from them building from the back and being allowed easy possession from their goalkeeper. Their centre backs would split and central midfielders drop back to receive a short pass. It was quite similar to what we were trying to do ourselves. But then Poyet did this:
Instead of retreating to the halfway line as they usually would on opposition goal kicks, the midfield pushed right up and denied them the easy ball, forcing Davis into the long punt instead.
Some might say that it was an easy and obvious tactical change to make, and it probably was. But it still had to be executed and the point is that it is evidence of a manager positively influencing a game in progress with some actual thought. That has to be seen as a positive sign moving forward.
Ki To The Plan
If Sunderland are to succeed with Poyet's patient passing possession game, then it is difficult to see it happening without Ki Sung-Yueng being a pivotal part of it. The Korean was in metronomic form at the base of the midfield, calmly distributing the ball and dictating his side's play.
You can understand why Lee Cattermole was chosen ahead of him for the derby, and then you can understand by Poyet was reluctant to make changes to a winning side at Hull, but Ki's skill-set is almost tailor-made for the role and in that sense he is pretty much unique in the Black Cats squad.
He can pass it with both feet, can time a pass to near perfection, seems almost unerringly adept at playing himself away from pressure, and is used to playing in such a system. He surely must be the first name on the team sheet should Poyet wish to continue down this path.
If there is one player in the Sunderland side who doesn't get enough love, then it is probably Jozy Altidore. The American is struggling to get on the score sheet, so it is understandable to a degree.
But no one player was more of a match-winner here than Altidore. He didn't start the game especially well at all in truth. However, after the break he was an absolute beast of a centre forward. He forged a massive chance for Craig Gardner with a a sublime piece of play before creating both goals.
I definitely believe he has goals in him and I'm sure he wants to prove it, but I personally couldn't care less if he doesn't score again all season if he is setting up three chances like that for others every game.