What The Gaffer Said
After a series of difficult home games, Gus Poyet did not hide his disappointment at his side's failure to overcome an eminently beatable Norwich City.
I'm disappointed, I was expecting more from the team.
We've used excuses before because we've been playing top teams at the Stadium of Light, but we were not good enough to win today.
There's no place to hide.
I don't care about the other results, we need to be looking after ourselves.
The easy part, from a manager's point of view, is defending. Being organised is something that the players have been putting plenty of effort and understanding into.
The situation that we are in, we are all involved. Of course there are players with different characters and on the day they can do better and they know that.
It was a very disappointing day.
Poyet was unequivocal in his assessment of the game; not good enough, no excuses. He clearly felt his players could have done better on the day, which I'm sure we'd all agree with.
Lack Of Goalscoring Opportunities
One of the main problems with the style of play Poyet employs is it can often result in a lack of clear goalscoring opportunities. This was certainly evident on Saturday; Sunderland dominated possession and had more shots than Norwich in total, but mustered just four on target. Two of those shots on target came from Phil Bardsley, who is also currently the club's top scorer. Given that he's a right back playing at left back, that is telling. Whilst Sunderland dominated possession, a relatively small percentage of their passes were made in the final third, with Norwich on top from a territorial perspective. Poyet has previously introduced subtle tactical changes to get back into games but on this occasion, he went for like for like substitutions, resulting in little positive impact.
Creative Midfielder & Full Back Needed
The aforementioned lack of goalscoring opportunities is, in part at least, a result of a lack of guile in central midfield and an inability to make use of wide areas. These problems could be solved by the additions of a left back - allowing the impressive Phil Bardsley to return to right back - and a creative, goalscoring midfielder to play alongside Ki and Cattermole.
Neither Celustka or Dossena look like being the the answer at full back under the current regime. Although Celustka started well under Di Canio, his lack of technical ability and sloppiness in possession make him a mismatch for Poyet's preference for a patient, passing game. This has become evident in recent games and was particularly obvious against Norwich.
In midfield, Cattermole and Ki look to have secured their roles in the side but need to be supplemented by something different. On Saturday, Larsson plugged away and grafted but simply does not offer what is needed by the third man in this system. The problem is, Gardner offers even less, while Colback has failed to impress when given the opportunity so far. Ultimately, if these two positions can be sorted out - and quickly - in January, then perhaps Sunderland can still make a fist of surviving this season.
Wes Brown's Idiocy
Although Wes Brown's moment of madness did not cost Sunderland the game on Saturday, his absence through suspension could well be telling when Sunderland come up against Everton, Cardiff City and Aston Villa in the next three fixtures. It may be that Brown had a rush of blood, a result of frustration with his side's inability to break down a resilient Norwich, but it was an unforgivable act of stupidity for a man of his experience. Since returning to the side he has been magnificent, a colossal presence at the back. Now Sunderland must battle on without him and three make or break games have suddenly become even more difficult.
Lack Of Home Comforts
As Sunderland passed the ball to little effect in front of Norwich's back four, the Canaries began to cause problems on the break. This is something Sunderland will have to be wary of in home games against sides they simply have to beat. In the upcoming fixtures, Sunderland have two away games before facing Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light in yet another crunch clash. Villa look particularly dangerous on the break and Sunderland will have to be prepared for their ability to counter possession sides, as they did successfully at Southampton recently. They have pace in abundance and Sunderland cannot afford to rely on them being as profligate as Norwich were this weekend.