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Quick Kicks: Strikers Need Help; Vergini Ready For Centre Stage

Time to pick apart that cup defeat to Stoke.

Nigel Roddis

What the gaffer said

I think the result is difficult to accept because I do not think we deserved to lose the game.

We had better chances and moments in the game with an opportunity to go 2-1 up, but there were big decisions today that went against us a little bit.

We are disappointed to lose as we were at home and we wanted to do well in the cup, but now we need everybody including the fans to make sure we are united and come in stronger to win the game on Saturday.

When you have so many changes in the team you want to compete and start well with pace because it can take a while to get going.

The team responded and started well and everything was going well until their goal.

Even though they had a few shots it was nothing to worry about, it was just a period of adjustment at the back that allowed them into the position to score.

Saying that it didn't affect our game and we were okay in the second half, but we need to be a little more clinical and not give anything away.

Vergini is ready

There is no doubting that Santiago Vergini was a total liability at centre back last season. He looked weak, dithering, and wholly unprepared for the sheer onslaught that came his way. That was then, though.

Although he impressed at full back towards the end of last season, I've always believed it was simply a transitional position for him. Shifted to the side, he was able to come to terms with the pace of the division without having the responsibility of a key position thrust upon him. He is a centre back, was signed as a centre back, and I have no doubt that centre back is where he will end up here should he stick around long enough.

Against Stoke, he truly looked ready for the position too after moving inside for the second half. He was able to step into the midfield and make an attacking contribution and, defensively, looked very solid too. He'll have certainly given Gus Poyet plenty of food for thought.

Right-sided triangle looked dynamic

'Dynamism' isn't a word you'd associate with Sunderland's performance here overall, but in the second half the right-sided triangle of Vergini, Billy Jones, and Will Buckley produced some very slick interchanges that repeatedly got around the back of the Stoke defence.

It was all textbook stuff, really... with Jones and Buckley taking it in turns to make the run, dragging the full back in and out of position, with Vergini often the man to see the pass and execute it.

It impressed Poyet sufficiently to state that Jones and Buckley will keep their places this weekend, and rightly so too. With so little going for Sunderland in terms of attacking play so far this season, that could be a big weapon going forward.

Speaking of attacking woes...

I don't expect this one to be a popular assertion, but I don't think that strikers are Sunderland's problem here. Could we improve upon the position? Of course. It's too easy to just see a lack of goals and blame the strikers, though. That's the lazy conclusion.

I've always been a believer that the time to blame strikers for a lack of goals is when they are missing chances. That's the moment when they are failing the side. That's not the case here, though, or at least it wasn't last night. A striker put away his one half chance and did so with no shortage of quality.

The problem is behind them. The team in general have just not found their rhythm yet. They seem to be struggling with identifying the moments to keep the ball and the moments to be incisive, with the result being everyone getting bogged down in a swamp of indecision.

For a striker, that has to be frustrating bordering on soul-crushing. Jozy Altidore had a poor game, but he was making run after run after run off the ball down the channels and between defenders. The ball never came though. It always seemed to go backwards instead as the man in possession dithered easily long-enough for Stoke to close down the space.

It's worth remembering that we were blaming the strikers last season too, yet the second that, in the words of Poyet, the team behind them 'clicked', Connor Wickham was able to find the goals to haul ourselves to safety. I don't care who you are, if the final ball never comes, you're not going to be scoring goals very consistently.

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