What The Gaffer Said
Sam Allardyce's tone seems to have undeniably altered in recent weeks. Having spoken proudly of his team's battling performance away to Arsenal two weeks ago we've seen a complete reversion to the Sunderland of old in our last two games, and Allardyce feels that Chelsea's win at the weekend was gifted to them by his players in the first half:
I think we made Chelsea look very good today.
We conceded through a set-piece and we need to stop things like that happening.
After Chelsea went a goal up we were on the back foot. I don’t think we recovered from conceding that early goal.
They were a side under pressure and getting that goal gave them the boost they needed.
In the second half we gave a penalty away and I was hoping to see a response; I got that and the players got into the game, we looked more like ourselves from that point.
We created chances and starting putting Chelsea under the pressure we should have put them under in the first half, but it was far too late.
I’m disappointed with the performance up until the last 30 minutes. After that we showed some bottle and some skill and created chances.
I was buoyed by what I saw after [Fabio] Borini got the goal, we looked more positive and challenged Chelsea; there was fight there.
Maybe I picked the wrong team; I have to take some responsibility. After I brought on a couple of players and changed the system around we looked better, but ultimately there were too many errors in the first half that have cost us the game today.
Allardyce was unequivocal in his assessment of the game - put simply, we just were not good enough. Clearly, he feels that we let ourselves down on the day.
Too Little, Too Late
The reoccurring pattern shown in the majority of our defeats this season has been that we often start far too slowly. The Chelsea game was no different - finding yourself two-nil down inside thirteen minutes is completely inexcusable and it makes me question the heart and desire of the players Allardyce has at his disposal. Do they care enough?
I'm sure some of them do, and I'm sure some care more than others. The fact of the matter, however, is that we continually show a lack of desire early on in games.
Playing like that will not keep us from relegation to the Championship. Something has got to give. Is Sam the right man for the job? Absolutely - 100%. That said, he has some major decisions to make in the January window and we've reached the point where you have to question whether or not it's worth persisting with certain players. It's all well and good Adam Johnson scoring against Newcastle every time we play them but he's looked bang average almost every time he's played this season. Jack Rodwell, for ten million pounds, has been a complete let down and we'd struggle to give him away right now.
Allardyce needs to send a message to his players that now is the time to get serious. No longer is it acceptable to just turn up and collect your wages. You either knuckle down, or we don't want you here.
Lens Has To Go
We're in a deep, deep hole and having people around the club that clearly don't want to be here only adds to a negative and toxic environment. There's no doubting the quality that Jeremain Lens has but he's gone completely off the boil since his mate big Dick left the club to the point where he's barely had minutes on the pitch in recent weeks and it's clear that Sam Allardyce just does not like him.
When the club are imposing maximum fines for disciplinary reasons and removing the player from first team training I think it's fair to say our relationship has reached the end. Sometimes, things just are not meant to be.
If we can get half of what we paid for him back in the January window, I'd take it. Life must go on.
We've Sorely Missed Cattermole & Larsson
You have to feel for Yann M'Vila in this instance, and I wonder what he must have been thinking when he lined up with Jack Rodwell and Ola Toivonen either side of him on Saturday.
When you're in a scrap, you need fighters. Jack Rodwell just does not strike me as the type of character capable of rolling his sleeves up and giving his all. The same goes for Toivonen. If we are going to stay up you simply cannot be playing a bang average, lazy centre forward in a role where he's expected to run alot and make crucial interceptions. I honestly think I'd rather see someone from Andy Welsh's under twenty-one's squad start - at least they'd play like they care.
Sam Allardyce has to make some tough choices ahead of the Manchester City game, because if we play those two from the start again we'll get butchered. The sooner Cattermole and Larsson are back from injury the better - what they lack in ability they more than make up for in desire and heart on the pitch and you have to think we'd be looking at things differently if we had those two available for the last two games.
Recruitment Must Be Taken Seriously By Our Owner
You have to look at that league table and think we're probably favourites to go down right now. I don't honestly think that we'd be in this position had we kept our big players fit but in order to deal with that your squad has to be able to step in. I don't even think it's a particularly valid excuse when you see how well Bournemouth are doing considering the quality of players they lost to injury early on in the season. That said, our backup players are not good enough. Our first choice players are barely good enough. As I understand it, we've passed full control of who comes in and goes out at the club to Sam Allardyce - great. It's all on him. The problem, however, is that playing for Sunderland is about as desirable as a bout of flu.
Convincing anyone half decent that moving to the North of England for a relegation battle must be the most unenviable task in top flight football right about now.
Time To Stop Thinking Like An Underdog
Why is it that sides like Watford come up from the Championship and are able to rock up against the likes of Liverpool with the mentality that they're going for three points?
How can Leicester - with basically the same squad of players that they had this time last year - be bottom at Christmas of 2014 and be top at Christmas of 2015? How can Bournemouth - with a squad ravaged by serious injuries to their best players - be unbeaten in five games, taking three points each off of Chelsea and Manchester United along the way?
The only way I can attempt to explain it is that they have altered their mentality to view every game as an opportunity to take three points, regardless of the quality of their opposition.
Why is it that after nine seasons in the top flight, we're still fighting relegation, year on year? Why is it that despite spending big on the likes of Fletcher, Johnson, Rodwell, Lens and Borini none of them are able to put in constantly good performances?
It's a question that's becoming increasingly difficult to answer without my head hurting.