What The Gaffer Said
It was tough because we started well and got a goal which meant everything was perfect, but then they scored the equaliser and perhaps people started getting a little nervous.
We didn't get nervous. We were calm, playing the game and believing in what we do with good movement, which are the things we work on - when you do things in training and it works in games the players buy into it and believe.
Overall we can now look at the table in a different way because now we have lost one in seven which is not a bad start.
I am the type of person who likes to accept responsibility when it doesn't go well because I am in charge and I pick the team. Of course when you make hard decisions like today - leaving Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson out. It is nice when it works because it shows that Fletch was doing something in training in the past two weeks that we needed.
Last year that partnership was largely made by Fabio Borini and Connor Wickham at the end of the season with Johnson standing out, but today it was Connor and Fletch, which is fantastic for us because it creates a situation where you know the role of every player.
Look at the last goal with Connor because you do not see many players with the power and ability to go past so many people and pull it back. Maybe two years ago Connor would try and shoot from there but today he had the strength and the quality to pull it back, which is something everybody can see is improving.
It is a very good start. Every single game has been very competitive and we have had chances to win in every single one. We needed to score two or three and have a very good weekend so we will keep believing in what we do and if we take our chances it will be a great season for us.
Gus, like the rest of us, was very relieved at this result. It was put to him after the game that the international break could be a nuisance and disruptive to newly found momentum.
He didn’t agree and seemed to imply that, if anything, it was welcomed; not least so that the injured players could have extra time to recover, but also so that everybody can just breathe a huge collective sigh of relief and enjoy the win for a little longer.
Sunderland Can Do Routine Wins At Last!
It’s no great secret that there’s not a lot of difference between squads outside the top seven or eight. What’s likely to keep you away from a relegation dog fight is the ability to win your home games against the majority of these sides.
It sounds simple because it is, and it’s something often taken for granted when achieved successfully and without fuss.
Fans often lament the fact their sides offer nothing more than produce these routine home wins year after year, but when you’ve been involved in nerve-racking relegation battles for a couple of seasons then you start to long for it. Striving for mid-table mediocrity is the line I like to use.
When those easier looking fixtures came around last season, we struggled. It took a ridiculously good run at the end of the season to compensate for that and left a feeling of ambiguity surrounding how good we actually were as a side.
I read someone’s tweet the other day suggesting this was our first win on a Saturday at home since Di Canio’s triumph over Everton in 2013! That’s quite something.
Beating an average side with a fairly average performance - give me more of it. Please.
Each Player Stepped Up
I say it was a fairly average performance, maybe I’m sounding harsh with that. I certainly didn’t think there was a bad player - something which is vitally important.
You can barely afford passengers in the Premier League and it was a solid 7/10 display throughout, with Steven Fletcher elevating himself above that.
More on him…
Hats Off To That Man
Steven Fletcher, eh? Questionable goal celebrations aside, it was a centre forward display close to perfection from him. And it was all down to the man himself.
Sure, Wickham’s movement and running was the closest thing we’ve had to replicating our attacking shape since Borini was here, meaning Fletcher often had a partner to play off.
But he still did things differently and played that lone(ish) front role well. His movement off the ball was as good as I can remember from him, and I don't mean simply finding space in the box. He pulled defenders around and offered himself to his midfielders.
His assist for Wickham's goal was what you need from a player in that role too, and frankly, I can't recall him showing the desire/understanding to produce that in many games previously.
You could see the confidence start to ooze from him once he'd both created one and scored one, and you almost felt it inevitable he'd score again if presented with the chance. And he did.
This abuse our fans have apparently directed at him during games, well, I must have missed that. But I'll hold my hands up and admit I was very much questioning his ability to play in this system. I didn't question his quality, I just concluded that the set up didn't look right for him.
He can continue to prove me wrong all he likes with those displays. His performance level improved unequivocally on Saturday, and previous (constructive) criticism (if you could even call it that) has been fair.
Let’s Not Get Carried Away
I don’t mean to go out on a negative note when I remind people that it isn’t inconceivable to lose at Southampton and then to Arsenal at home. With Giacherrini and Alvarez likely to be injured throughout October, the mood may have changed somewhat by the end of the month.
I’m happy though, as I think most of us are. We’ve looked very capable of being a side who should avoid a relegation battle comfortably.