Wise Men Say... Midfield Triumvirate A Triumph

Chris Brunskill

In which Roker Report's good buddies over at the Wise Men Say Podcast give their weekly views on all things SAFC. Don't forget to check out the podcast too, there's links below!

It's been a very satisfying month for Sunderland. Ok, that's stating the obvious maybe. But derby wins and Wembley fever aside, the activity in the transfer market was possibly as smooth as I can ever remember. It may not have been as dramatic as the first one Roy Keane had in the Championship that time, but when thinking about necessary players slotting into fascinating new systems, then Marcos Alonso and Liam Bridcutt really do appear to slot into ours seamlessly.

It's very early days for the latter, of course, while the former is only on loan. But talking about the here and now, it's hard to think how we could have utilised the transfer market any better this January.

The arrival of LIam Bridcutt was always likely, it was as obvious as the noses on a couple of our ex-managers' faces. But what was interesting previous to Newcastle was trying to speculate which way our midfield was likely to take shape. Would Catts and Bridcutt challenge for a spot, or would they line up together? Would they both hold in midfield and force the shape to alter slightly? Or would Poyet bring in another attacking midfielder to play alongside KI ahead of Bridcutt?

That final scenario was the one we hoped for on the podcast. Catts advancing further up the field appeared to be the other popular theory of choice. Poyet then alluded to the idea that Bridcutt and Cattermole would compete for one place when he spoke on the eve of the derby, when admitting a transfer for the Teesider appeared likely. But in the actual game itself we learned far more than we ever possibly imagined about how the attacking part of the midfield conundrum can be cracked.

Jack Colback.

Now it's important to stress that this was one game of football. It's also necessary to remind you that in the game prior, a 1-0 scrapfest at home to Stoke City, that the Tynesider was very much being made the main scapegoat for our lack of intent and purposefulness in the final third.

It appeared to be a microcosm of his Sunderland career up to date. A tidy player who refuses to come out of his shell. He seemed destined to play it safe all the way to being a second tier player to me.

But the triumvirate of he, Ki and Bridcutt ensured there was none of this on Saturday. Yes it was only one game, yet it told us so much about Poyet's footballing ideologies. Liam Bridcutt's importance to Poyet was clearly evident but his presence was also extremely beneficial to Colback, in particular. While Lee Cattermole is an undoubted leader of men, the ex-Brighton man is clearly as instructor.

Pointing, ordering and dictating who goes where at what time.

Our friend Jabsco who has his own Brighton blog Not Worth That, puts it like this - "Bridcutt was more than the water-carrier his position on the field often housed. He was an angle-changing, pass-spreading, tempo-maintaining machine".

And it's the tempo-maintaining factor that Colback capitalised on against Newcastle. Jack is no longer the go-to-guy for simple ball retention. Ki and Bridcutt match him in that department and thus appear to give the academy product little choice but to use this as a platform to drive forward and crank his influence up a notch. If he and Ki can continue to trust Bridcutt behind them and drive forward on a game to game basis then we really could be getting somewhere.

And look how Jozy Altidore appears to have already benefited by having players moving closer to him. We don't have time here to elaborate on that here.

There'll be a lot of chat about all of the above on the pod this week. Myself and Gareth Barker are joined in the studio by former black cat Martin Smith and Chris Thompson from A Love Supreme.

Be sure to subscribe on iTunes (HERE) or listen on SoundCloud (HERE).

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