The first 45 minutes against Aston Villa was the worst display I have ever seen as a Sunderland fan. We have been subjected to years and years of dour performances, but not even in the 15 and 19 point seasons did I witness a team roll over in such humiliating fashion. The complete lack of character, bottle, passion or however you want to describe it was nothing short of shameful.
Gus’ system is now completely non-existent, any sort of patient build up has now become aimless lumping of the ball up to a 5ft5 striker. None of the urgency shown at the end of last season is present. We now simply limp out of the blocks gifting the opposition a foothold in the game.
The game-plan now seems to be keep it tight and try to nick a goal later on in the game, and when we do inevitably concede the best we can hope for is to scrape a point. Furthermore, if we do take the lead; we sit back and invite the opposition to come onto us. This mentality seems to now be at the root of Gus Poyet’s team. I wrote earlier on in the year about how the Southampton game scared Gus into not taking risks - the Aston Villa game will only go on and strengthen this fear.
At home we have made teams like QPR, Hull and Aston Villa look like world-beaters and are now well and truly in a relegation battle, only the word battle does not seem to be in Gus’ vocabulary. Without players like Lee Cattermole in the side we have zero drive. His persistence with Liam Bridcutt is becoming increasingly frustrating. Lacklustre in possession and often rash in the tackle, he doesn’t seem to be equipped to play in the Premier League.
Gus played down the importance of the Villa game. It wasn’t a ‘huge’ game and wasn’t about urgency, instead he wanted a more measured, level-headed approach to the encounter. This is typical of the Uruguayan, and to a certain level I do agree with him, a level-headed approach to the game is needed. But what is also needed against a team who have just won two derby games on the bounce is fight. Now Tim Sherwood is not a tactical genius, far from it, but what he seems to do is get his players up for a game, Poyet can’t.
Looking at what’s out there in terms of alternatives to Mr Poyet, it’s slim pickings. The top five favourites to succeed Gus at the time of writing this are: Dick Advocaat. Sam Allardyce, Michael Laudrup, Eddie Howe and Billy Davies.
As George Boyd put Burnley ahead against Man City, Sunderland’s gap above the drop zone is now only 1 point, and thanks to another thrashing our goal difference is almost identical to those around us. On average 37 points will see you safe, with 8 games left in the season, the aim will be to get those 11 points but with only four wins all season and only one in our last 13 games, I’m really struggling to see where they will come from.