What The Gaffer Said
Paolo Di Canio was understandably frustrated after last night's performance, and vowed to analyse the game and put things right ahead of the end of season run-in. He told safc.com:
It was a very bad performance. It wasn't acceptable.
I'm going to analyse my players and myself this week and work out what has happened.
We switched off. Maybe after two wins in a row we felt a bit full in our stomachs - but this cannot be the case, it's never possible to be full - even at the highest level.
We have to defend our pride and honour, we have a big responsibility to do that in all games.
Aston Villa looked like we did in our last two games - they had fire and ferocity. They had desire and ambition all over the field, it didn't happen for us tonight.
It's obvious how the players are feeling right now, I have had results worse than this in my career and I felt like the worst player in the world.
It's important that we understand that we had a bad performance tonight and we will look at why this happened but we can't burn what we have built over the last two games.
We have two home games now and we know we can't relax; it's by no means acceptable. We are going to work as hard as we have in the last two weeks as we look forward to these games.
Di Canio struck a perfect tone here, managing to both criticise the performance, while at the same time creating a sense of togetherness in the squad, and explaining how the team can move forward. There was none of the excuses used by previous managers, and the Italian took a share of the blame himself.
A Reminder Of The Flaws In The Squad
It's easy to forget with the previous two performances just how poorly this squad of players were performing before Di Canio came in. The Italian has worked non-stop with the players to produce the shape and organisation that allowed us to beat Everton and Newcastle, creating an wonderful pressing game, but the flaws in the squad really came out into the forefront last night.
Three of the goals came from poor individual mistakes, while another one was down to bad marking. There was also a handful of truly awful individual performances, and only two or three Sunderland players really came out of the game with any credibility. While we can criticise Di Canio for not reacting quick enough to his side's second half collapse, it's fair to say the players deserve the brunt of the blame for this performance.
Perhaps a performance like this was needed to remind us all just how poor this squad of players are, and just how much work is needed in the summer transfer window. Di Canio has now had a chance to see his team at it's worst, and just who the deadwood are that will need to be shifted along in the coming months.
Sessegnon's Red Card Could Prove More Costly Than This Loss
Sunderland received their first red card in the league this season last night, and it was shown to the worst player imaginable. Sessegnon's red looked harsh, and wasn't really a particularly dangerous challenge, but given the FA's history on those sort of fouls, it's unlikely to be rescinded, meaning the Benin international will miss the rest of the season.
Sessegnon has been outstanding over the last two or three games, looking more focused, and more willing to go direct and have shots at goal. Against Newcastle he practically ran the show, and is clearly Sunderland's key attacking threat. The Everton match-winner has been at the top of his game under Di Canio, and while he didn't do anything productive last night, he will be a huge loss ahead of the final few games. Indeed you could make a case for his red card being the worst thing to come out of last night's game.
Sunderland go into the final three games needing at least two points, but now look worryingly lacking up top. With Connor Wickham injured, Di Canio may have to throw youngster Mikael Mandron straight into the firing line against Stoke next Monday. Without a player like Sessegnon up front, the team lack a focal point and a clear creative threat, and his red card could prove very costly.
Well... At Least We Scored The Goal Of The Game
It's easy to forget that at one point, Sunderland were very much in the game at Villa Park. Ron Vlaar's thunderbolt gave the home side the lead, but after a quick equaliser, many fans must have felt the momentum would shift in Sunderland's favour. It didn't, but at least we have a wonderful goal from Danny Rose to take from the game.
Without meaning to take anything away from Vlaar's excellent strike, as well as Villa's superbly worked second, Sunderland's was the goal of the night, and Rose was at the centre of everything. It started with a one-two between Rose and Gardner, with the left back then finding Danny Graham who had peeled off to the wing. Rose continued his run, found space free in the box and received an excellent pass from Graham to sweep a left-footed effort into the corner of the net.
It was magnificent team goal, for me our goal of the season, and the one moment of joy for Sunderland fans in an otherwise awful night.