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Quick Kicks: Progression Palpable; Full Backs Stepping Up

The point against Swansea came with plenty of positives. Stephen Goldsmith dissects it for us.

Stu Forster

What The Gaffer Said

I think that’s our best performance of the season so far.

We made it difficult for Swansea today and I thought we were outstanding, the way we defended and stopped them from playing, we forced them to play a different game and we were very brave going forward.

We created all kinds of chances; unfortunately we were just missing a goal.

Obviously I’m happier when we win games, but I’m happy after our performance in that match.

We attacked well and we had that little extra threat on the wings; I think the subs came on and showed what they could do. Ricky came on when the game was a little more settled and had the chance to show what he can do and the quality he has with that left foot.

Everything is in place; we just need to get that first win on the board. We are convinced in the dressing room that everything is going in our favour; I think we just need those extra breaks.

We were just short of that goal; the game was just waiting for someone to take tomorrow’s newspaper headlines.

Connor [Wickham] did well today, he did everything we asked of him and all he was missing was the goal. He held the ball well and was really strong up front; if he had got a goal he would have had the performance of the game.

Clear Progression

It's amazing how quickly some folks turn. The view in the pubs and on social media before this game was as pessimistic as I've witnessed in some time. And it was understandable, Swansea are a very decent side who boast as good a front six as you may see outside the top seven or eight clubs.

Yet a palpable amount of criticism has now emerged because we just failed to cross the line in a game we pretty much dominated. Had we played like we did at Burnley, slowly shifting the ball around aimlessly, then I'd be worried. But that's not what happened here.

Despite the agitation of some in the crowd, Sunderland's build up play was quick and always felt like it was leading somewhere. If being hard to beat continues to be the platform for performances like that then we'll be fine.

Individuals Finally Stepping Up

This was the first game of the season where a fair few individuals stepped up. I've been suggesting for a while that the inclusion of Billy Jones could be the tweak that made a significant difference to our attacking shape. And it proved.

Complimenting the impressive Patrick van Aanholt on the opposing side of the field, his runs and positional sense helped create space for our midfielders to dictate play more. Santiago Vergini put in a performance at centre half that laid to rest some concerns about his capabilities there - those horror displays in that 352 experiment were still very much fresh in the mind.

Ricky Alvarez looked good. He looked confident and creative, and looks ready to play a big part in these types of games.

Seb Larsson continues to polarise opinion with some suggesting he was poor and others claiming he was man of the match. I pretty much saw it somewhere in the middle of that. I thought while he struggled first half, he was good in the second. The fact someone can turn a performance round like that is commendable in itself, especially when it's a player renowned for going missing in games.

It's just a shame that the extra space created in the middle of the park, the good performance by Larsson and the outstanding performance (again) by Lee Cattermole couldn't be totally taken advantage of by others...

Key Players Need To Offer More

Ok, so it's not all rainbows and butterflies. Please don't mistake the tone of this as being ridiculously optimistic. I am disappointed that we couldn't find that goal and that win, and there were some in the side who need to take a lot of responsibility.

Connor Wickham has been given a huge vote of confidence by being allocated as the number one striker. Even before the arrivals of Alvarez and regular inclusion of Buckley, he was given a place in the side despite it having that shoehorn feel about it. And it's easy to see why. His hold up play looks better than lever and his movement pulls defenders around a lot. But he needs to be a goal threat. His final decision making hasn't been good enough at times and the guilt edged chance he missed at the weekend was there for all to see. He's only 21 and I'm sure that will come, but you feel like he should be offering more in front of goal if he's to justify his seemingly tough stance in contract talks.

Jack Rodwell is another who's back I've had. I thought he was arguably our best player at Turf Moor and have pleaded for patience with him continuously. But as mentioned above, this was a game our midfielders were awarded more time and space because of our two attacking full backs and Wickham's hold up play. I feel an imposing performance from Rodwell could have been the difference between the draw and grabbing that win.

I still think he's a great player, but remembering we're a side who blew the majority of our transfer budget on him, he needs to start being more autonomous in the middle of the park.

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