It's hard to reconcile the result against Tottenham on Sunday with the actual performance we saw on the pitch. From the spirited performance alone we deserved something from that match. Of that I'm certain. Two shots hit the woodwork, some excellent movement both with and without the ball, all of which merited at least a point. However in true Sunderland fashion, we played well and came away with nothing.
It was, you might say, a game of two halves but not in the clichéd way we've become accustomed. Instead you can separate it into ‘before the substitutions were made' and ‘after'. The Little General needed to freshen things up when he did, perhaps arguably even sooner.
However let's start by saying it would be wrong to criticize Advocaat for the goal, assuming we're looking for someone to wag a finger of blame at. Toivonen and Borini looked exhausted and were running on fumes.
Spurs capitalised on the short window of time when we looked to have lost our rhythm. In short we appeared, for the briefest spell, to be disorganised following the changes. Cattermole didn't track his runner and that, amongst a few other errors led to the only goal of the game. One mistake, one goal and a reminder, if it was ever needed, that football can be a cruel game. However by the end we learned that a front three of Lens, Defoe and Borini will cause teams problems going forward.
So let's explore the positives further. Speaking after the game Advocaat commented:
"I said to the players, if the fans are proud of you when you lose a game, but you give everything, it can only be better. And believe me, if we play the way we played today and give everything, the points will come because that's football. The way we played, I have not seen many games from us that we have played this way, this system and attacking-wise and the spirit in the team, the passing -- that's a little bit the way I like, and now we need a few more goals at the right time."
Before the kick off though it was all about Borini and it was thrilling to see Fabio back in the red and white stripes. His endeavour on the pitch cannot be in question. He swapped flanks at half time and added solid protection to both fullbacks, which it has to be said, has been missing over the last few weeks. His lack of fitness was to be expected though, and that sharpness will come in time.
Ola Toivonen looks like a great fit for the 4-3-3 formation too. Again when you factor in he hasn't been through a pre-season the former PSV star appears to understand fully the role that is expected of him. He was winning headers all afternoon. Not only that but he was able to win and direct them to a teammate, a rare sight for the home team at the Stadium of Light. In fact we've not glimpsed an accomplishment like that since the days of Niall Quinn.
Yann M'Vila and Younes Kaboul are also certainly worthy of a mention. The former not only looks a level above Cattermole he seems to be on a different stratosphere, so much so that the Teessider may struggle to find his way back in the side any time soon.
The test will now be whether the Black Cats can sustain that level of performance over 90mins in the coming matches. Unfortunately we're used to seeing the team take one-step forward then two or three back. However if we can indeed maintain the quality we showed against Spurs, when it comes to the task of facing Bournemouth for example, the players should be confident of getting further points on the board.