The frequent nature of Sunderland capitulating quickly in the majority of games suggests that there is a mental fragility about our squad which could be hard for Sam Allardyce to shift. This is compounded when senior players like Lee Cattermole, Younes Kaboul and Seb Larsson are missing, resulting in us showing absolutely no fight whatsoever regardless of the level of opposition we face.
Three goals conceded in fifteen minutes against Leicester City. Three goals conceded in thirty minutes against Norwich. Four goals conceded inside thirty-six minutes at home to Manchester City in the cup. Away to Everton we let in four goals inside twenty-one minutes. Last weekend away to Manchester City we conceded three goals in twenty-one minutes. Simply put, that is not good enough.
All the more depressing is that the above list only covers this season - you could extend the agony by throwing in the embarrassment away at Southampton and the home matches against Crystal Palace and Aston Villa during the 2014/2015 season.
Allardyce summed it up perfectly after the Boxing Day defeat at Manchester City:
"We all knew it was going to be difficult against Manchester City, but I did expect us to show a little more fight and determination."
That’s a pretty damning assessment from a guy that’s barely been in the door five minutes, and the confusion as to how this group can be so inconsistent bares striking resemblance to that of his predecessors.
This squad is in desperate need of some characters, guys that are going to come in and set some standards. We’re in desperate need of individuals that won’t accept their side just rolling over, and personalities that inspire a togetherness yet to be displayed on a consistent basis in recent times. The situation as it is demands that we prioritise these qualities over anything else when looking to recruit in January.
This group is far too nice to play against, and that has been a reoccurring theme over recent seasons, bar the odd false dawn performance or ‘new manager’ bounce.
The senior players need to stand up too; leaders in the dressing room like Cattermole and John O’Shea should be rattling cages after the run of embarrassing defeats we’ve found ourselves on.
The ‘closing down’ in the build-up to the first two goals at the Etihad was an absolute disgrace, and it’s up to the few experienced players we have in the squad to point fingers and address why there are players in our squad that simply don’t try.
Where have our leaders been in recent weeks? Why weren’t certain individuals getting the group together after conceding the opener, and ensuring the right messages were delivered so that the team didn’t completely lose its shape? Now, I’m not suggesting this is the absolute underlying problem; however you have to question the team’s togetherness when we continue to see these performances despite the numerous changes in managers.
Ultimately, we can’t afford to show anything less than one hundred percent commitment over the the remaining months of the season. The only hope we have for achieving yet another escape is by showing a spirit that is indicative of the club and region itself. That spirit has to be ignited by the senior players and management staff so that other individuals actually want to go out and put their bodies on the line.
Most of the goals we’re conceding are avoidable – not closing down properly, not tracking the runner, not getting off the ground during an aerial challenge. That’s an attitude and concentration issue, and nothing to do with the quality of our players.
A positive attitude is often bred through leadership. Sunderland Football Club could certainly do with leaders right now.