What The Gaffer Said
After the Swansea game Sam remarked that he felt winning that game was more important than taking anything at Spurs, and to me it felt as though he'd definitely deprioritised the game on Saturday, with Bournemouth to come the weekend after.
To concede forty seconds after we scored is the biggest disappointment for me today.
We did most things right defensively up until then and we’d scored a superb goal before we went and shot ourselves in the foot.
Had we gone in at half time with the score at one-nil I think it could have been a different game.
We did tire towards the end and our energy was diminishing, but ultimately we’ve been beaten by a very good team.
We gave the goals away far too easy; we should have been a lot tighter.
I made changes as I thought our legs were running out and I wanted us to stay in the game, it’s the aftermath of three big away games and it was to be expected.
John O’Shea and Wes Brown are both in their thirties and were maybe feeling it a little bit, I brought on another defender to try and tighten it up.
It was [Jan] Kirchhoff’s first-ever game in the Premier League, it had to happen at some stage and it was always going to be a risk, he needs to get up to speed with the pace of the game and learn quickly.
However, I think our problem today was leaving ourselves open. After we scored, we just let Spurs run right through as and we conceded. We weren’t a tight compact unit like we should have been.
[Jordan] Pickford is a good lad, he’s gained plenty of experience out on loan and that’s helped him a great deal. He came in and he looked very comfortable for someone of his age. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.
Sam put Saturday's defeat down to the amount of football his side have played this week, indicating it was asking too much of certain players by having them play the three games in seven days.
His opening two lines are indicative of Sunderland's season - how many times are we going to take a lead only to fall to bits pretty spectacularly? It's becoming far too repetitive for my liking.
Changing Systems During Games Proving Costly
Sam can blame the tiredness of his players for why we lost the game but I personally feel we fell apart as soon as the decision was taken to go five at the back. It made no sense. Spurs were already dominating possession and it seemed nonsensical to take another body out of the middle in order to add to the defence. I didn't understand it.
What it did was allowed Spurs more time on the ball, and more distance between the defence and their attack. It made the job of our 'tired' midfielders even harder as the lack of numbers ensured they had to do extra running. Our full backs - who had played well up until that point - now had zero cover in front of them, which allowed Spurs to penetrate from wider positions.
Add the fact that Kirchhoff was thrust into a no win situation when it made more sense to bring on Sebastien Coates - who is far fitter, acclimatised and has actually played as part of a back five this season already - and I just couldn't get my head around it. Sam made a mistake, and it would have been nice if he'd admitted that instead of shifting the blame to the tiredness of his players. The fact is that we were steady at one-all and a change of tactics saw us concede a further three goals.
Don't get me wrong, I think long term a back five is the way to go with the players that we have. I just don't think it helped anyone making that switch midway through a game. Not at all.
When Are We Going To Start Drawing Games?
If Sunderland are to reach that magical forty point mark we simply cannot keep losing games that we are in a position to pick up points from. Since Sam arrived we've not drawn a single game, and that concerns me. I've already explained what went wrong on Saturday but I feel that in changing the system Sam was trying to hold out for the point and it completely backfired.
It's evident he's not entirely sure how to get his players to set up to take a draw, which is odd considering at other clubs defending for draws has been his forte, and last season the same squad drew almost half of the games they played in the league.
Let's Try And Be Positive About February
I don't believe it'll take forty points to finish seventeenth but it's certainly a target we need to be aiming at in order to be sure. As it stands we've taken eighteen points from twenty two games, which equates to 0.8 points per game. Over the whole season that's about thirty points - is that going to be enough to stay up? I think not.
I know it's a cliché, but if we're going to stay up we have to win the majority of our 'winnable' (although the definition of which games are winnable and which games aren't is entirely up for debate) home games, starting next week against a Bournemouth side who have already tanned our arses once this season. It's a daunting prospect.
Our fixtures in February make for horrific reading - that said, in season's gone by, home matches against Manchester City and Manchester United have been games we've traditionally taken at least a point from when nobody has expected it. As difficult as the prospect of that seems, especially considering just how bad our form against the 'top' sides has been so far this season, we have to get something from one of those.
We need to turn what's to come in February from a negative into a positive - lets look at those games as an opportunity to announce ourselves and gain ground on the teams around us. In the past we've banked on a win or two against teams we're not expected to beat in order to stay up. Other teams down the bottom are able to do it, so why not us?
Kirchhoff Needs To Be Taken Out Of The Limelight
There's no way to describe Jan Kirchhoff's debut at White Hart Lane as anything other than a complete disaster. From the moment he stepped on the pitch he looked unprepared, and his lack of awareness led to two Spurs goals that we probably should never have conceded.
My question is why - why was he even on the pitch? Why was he selected ahead of Coates if the plan was to play with three central defenders? Why was he expected to be ready to face one of the league's most fluid sides when he's barely kicked a ball in two years? Why was he placed in a no-win situation when it would make more sense to let him build up his fitness and confidence with a number of games in the reserve side?
We're now in a situation where the fans have zero confidence in him after just thirty minutes of football, and the player has probably had his confidence shattered to pieces after the eyes of the nation watched him make a complete fool of himself on television. What on earth was the thinking behind putting him in that situation?
Bad call, Sam.
That Said, Let's Move On
There's absolutely nothing we can gain from dwelling on the Spurs game at this point. Saturday is a much, much bigger match in the grand scheme of things and it's an opportunity to close the gap between ourselves and the sides flirting with the relegation places.
All I ask, Sunderland, is that you turn up on Saturday just like you did against Swansea and Villa. Please. I think at this point we have to be realistic and say that failing to win games against the likes of Bournemouth - make no bones about it, mind, they're a much better side than we are - will only add to our misery and we have to go into February with those three points on board.
If we can beat Bournemouth we can enter into the upcoming home games against much more difficult opposition with confidence.