Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Sunderland 0-1 Fulham

Chris Brunskill

In some ways it was all so familiar, but in others completely different. Here is what we made of Sunderland's season opener.

What The Gaffer Said

Di Canio wasn't quite the brash and cantankerous character that we saw after games last season, but he certainly didn't shirk anything either:

I've said before that I prefer to play well and lose a game - I say this because I try to think about the future and look at things in a positive way, but now after losing maybe I think a little bit differently.

It's disappointing, for 80 minutes we were in Fulham's half and the only corner that they had has cost us the game.

We left a man free at the post and gave away a silly goal.

Our new players need to learn quickly, this is just the opening day but there's no time to spare in the Barclays Premier League.

I need to see more ferocity from my players, the way we played satisfied me as there was only one team in the game.

The one thing that was missing from our performance was a goal and that is the main thing - you need to score to get maximum points or sometimes to draw.

Their goal hurt us and for the rest of the game we looked like a team of new players.

Fulham are an experienced side with players that have been together for many years.

We need to adjust a few things but we are a team capable of doing that.

I think Di Canio simply shared the frustration that the rest of us felt. Some will drone on about 'same old Sunderland' nonsense but there is no way we deserved to lose that game no matter what anyone says.

Unfortunately, half the reason we love football is because of its cruelty and we were on the wrong end of it this time.

New Mentality

There were some similarities to last season's struggles - lack of creativity from central areas, Sessegnon bafflingly anonymous, conceding at a bad time - but they were generally outweighed by the positives.

Chiefly among those was the new attacking mentality on display. No one could accuse this team of wanting to sit back, invite pressure, and be overly cautious.

The actual execution still needs a little fine-tuning but the intent is clear for all to see and it's a great leap forward.

Sesse-Heads-Gone?

Sadly it would be difficult to mention this game without commenting on Stephane Sessegnon's contribution, or lack of.

We are no strangers to a totally ineffectual Sess performance, of course. It is just something you have to learn to live with where he is concerned. But this one seemed remarkably lethargic, almost as if he is going through the motions.

It was quite reminiscent of when Asamoah Gyan was on the verge of leaving and worried about picking up an injury that would destroy his hopes of the big pay-day on offer in the Middle East, and with Sessegnon linked with a move to Qatar you have to wonder if history is repeating itself.

Or we could just be being paranoid...

The Case For The Defence

Sunderland conceded a soft goal from a set piece, and that is naturally dominating the discussion as it was, ultimately, decisive. Valentin Roberge was certainly beaten all too easily, you'd have to say that.

But it shouldn't be forgotten that for literally the rest of the game the team defended very well indeed as a whole. Fulham created one half-chance in the entire game. At Premier League level, that's impressive. Get scoring and I think the defence will provide the platform to win games.

I thought that Roberge was generally very good despite the mistake, by the way.

Alt'll Score

If we are going to find a scoring touch, you can't help but feel Jozy Altidore will be the key to it, even if he isn't prolific himself.

The American looks a real handful both with his back to goal and when attacking it, and a little help for him could go a very long way.

Half of the problem here was that with Sessegnon so far out of sorts, there just wasn't anyone near enough to Altidore to make use of his good work. You'd fancy Steven Fletcher to thrive alongside him.

If Sessegnon is to leave over the next couple of weeks, a forward who can take advantage of Altidore's brute strength looks like a must to replace him.

Generally?

Perhaps it was a little overly-optimistic to expect instant change and instant results given the summer we have had. Perhaps the new-season optimism just got the better of us.

It may be a season to grow into and really drive forward in the second half when there are no top sides due to visit the Stadium of Light. I'd take that. Patience may be required.

I think things looks good though. They look fitter, better organised, and better motivated. Most importantly, the new arrivals look better than the players they have replaced. Much will depend upon how they react to a bloody nose or two, though.

However, generally I am quite positive about what we saw. Had we won we wouldn't have got carried away so no need to press the panic button following defeat.

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