clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Captain's Blog: My Kingdom For Giaccherini

Surely it is time for Sunderland to finally let go of the past and the players who have filled it with nothing but misery, and embrace the future they spent all summer chasing instead?

Richard Sellers

There was a return of many disturbing familiar sights for Sunderland at Hull last week, so many in fact and to such a level of annoyance that Steve Bruce's big red pie face barely made the list at all.

There was Lee Cattermole seeing red, for one. There was an inability to build on previous positives. There was the seemingly incurable natural inclination for self-destruction. There was Andre Mariner being a total moron.

But I think the one that stuck with me most was once again seeing Seb Larsson labouring away in the side, apparently in the cast-iron belief that your chances of winning football matches increase incrementally with the amount of pointing performed.

Larsson is a player I have always found myself having a strange kind of outlook toward. In theory he is great. He has a some technical ability, can deliver quality into the box, is versatile, and backs it all up with a truly professional work ethic.

During the week, I have no doubts that he trains as well as anyone. In fact he probably puts many to shame. He is also one of the most defensively and tactically responsible players I have ever seen in a Sunderland shirt, as evidenced by his intelligently executed central midfield/right wing hybrid position against Newcastle.

So it is not difficult to see why manager after manager use the Swede. To be perfectly honest, I'd be tempted to as well, such is how well he stacks up on paper.

But sadly, and much to all of our irritation at the moment, football isn't played on paper, and on grass Larsson rarely offers anything of real tangible value. Doesn't score goals, rarely creates chances, never frightens defenders into dropping off. Never does much of anything when on the ball really.

I know that football, particularly the modern game, is an insular business. Training is sacred, performances painstakingly reduced to intricate statistics and data, and there are inarguable reasons behind why players get in the team - apparently.

I can accept that in most cases. Granted, I have opinions on players and team selections just like everyone else. I mean it isn't like the Sunderland squad is packed full of top players to choose from. Whether Seb Larsson plays in midfield with his two-speed setting or say, for example, Craig Gardner, who couldn't show any less self-awareness if he went to a science fiction convention and mocked the crowd in immaculate Klingon for being nerds... well that's the very definition of a footballing catch 22 to me.

But when you see a player like Emanuele Giaccherini sitting on the bench, an unused substitute for the last 180 minutes of Premier League football, Seb Larsson scampering around the pitch becomes one of the most demoralising sights I can remember seeing as a Sunderland fan.

This is the same Giaccherini who was signed from the Italian champions and jets off every month, invited to play for one of the top international sides in the world. The same Giaccherini who is Sunderland's top goalscorer this season. The same Giaccherini who was loved by Antonio Conte for his work ethic and versatility and bestowed with the nickname 'the little soldier'.

Frankly, I don't care how well Larsson trains if he can't produce it in the Premier League, and he hasn't for such a long time now. He has become one of the many institutionalised losers at the club. One of the more likeable ones, yes, but still a loser. Like the rest, he has had his chances and done nothing with them.

This summer was supposed to see all that change. It wasn't realistic to expect to see the back of the old guard, but this was the year the reliance upon them was meant to become a thing of the past.

And I think that is why the whole Larsson/Giaccherini situation has got under my skin so much. It isn't a Seb-specific lament. If I was going down that route he isn't the one I'd start with.

But it just seems like a microcosm of what feels like broken promises and failed convictions. This summer there was genuine positivity abound. People were looking forward with smiles on their faces after the influx of arrivals, not because the the names were all that exciting but because they were new.

There was a sense the club was moving on and committing to a new direction - a direction I still personally believe was the right one. But nothing seems to have changed, and nothing shoves that down your throat with more cruelty than being made to watch the same serial losers lose in Sunderland shirts whilst serial winners such as Giaccherini and Ki Sung-Yueng sit in training tops watching from the bench.

I appreciate Poyet's insistence that the best players do not necessarily make for the best team. I am all for the construction of an actual team with an actual identity and an actual system of play. Such a team might actually get some actual points at some point.

But there isn't a soul on earth that will convince me that the obvious few pedigree players we have in the squad have no place in that team. Enough messing about now. Enough looking at the past for solutions.

It is surely time to look to the future instead, and the players who were signed mere months ago to be it. If for nothing else, than for the sake of our sanity.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report