What The Gaffer Said
This was David Moyes' first proper game as Sunderland manager and though I wasn't expecting to see anything near a finished product I was hoping that we'd see hints for the type of style that Sunderland were likely to play away from home, particularly in the games against bigger sides that were going to dominate possession.
In his post-match brief, Moyes admitted that our game plan was to actually have more of a go than we did, which surprised me.
We can take positives from the performance because we did an awful lot of good things today.
We're disappointed we didn't take a point, which everyone would have said would have been a really good result. The players did great. We gave a couple of lads their debut today and they did a great job.
Defensively we played well throughout the game – just the second goal disappointed me. There were a couple of actions that we'll work on and improve on.
It was great there were so many supporters here and I think they could see the players were at it.
We had to have a game plan – ideally we would have had more of a go, but we were struggling to get the ball off City, which I'm sure will happen to a lot of teams. I've said to the players that they have to play like that in every game.
They've set the standard for effort and commitment and they'll be getting it from me if they drop below that.
The last line is pretty important, I feel - you could see certain players grafting their socks off and that is always a good sign when a new manager comes in. Every player starts this season with a clean slate, and it going to be hard for Moyes to drop Lynden Gooch or Fabio Borini ahead of this weekend's game with Middlesbrough after they worked so hard on Saturday.
Gooch Is Good
By no means did Lynden Gooch deliver a world-beating performance in his Premier League debut at the Etihad Stadium but he did impress me enough to think that he can become a big part of our playing squad this coming season.
The occasion didn't seem to faze him and he worked hard throughout - in a more open game he might have been able to contribute more offensively, and in fairness to him he delivered a number of quality balls into the area from the left hand side. The early signs from him were promising.
I wrote this article on Gooch almost two years ago highlighting his potential to become a first teamer here and I'm glad that Moyes has finally become the manager to place some faith in him. He started ahead of Wahbi Khazri, Jeremain Lens and Adnan Januzaj and that is telling - all three are established international wide players but Moyes elected to give Gooch his chance to impress in a tough game, and he did.
Van Aanholt Needs To Nip It In The Bud Immediately
Patrick Van Aanholt was by far our most improved player last season. Sam Allardyce had him playing at a level where he actually stood out in games, something I never thought I'd have seen when he first signed for the club.
On Saturday though we saw a return to the Van Aanholt of old, and he played his part in both of Manchester City's goals. We know he's much better than that because we've seen it with our own eyes. Now that Allardyce has gone he has to treat Moyes with the same level of respect and listen to what he says, something Big Sam bemoaned in the early days as a contributing factor to why Patrick was struggling. Listening is clearly his biggest issue.
It might not seem a priority right now but signing a left back that can provide proper competition to Van Aanholt is an absolute necessity before the transfer window ends. It has to be someone with real quality too, because I don't believe that Tom Robson or Billy Jones possess a big enough threat to Patrick's place in the side. Having him looking over his shoulder in training and games is what is needed in order to get him over-achieving on the football pitch again.
John O'Shea is finished at this level, so seeing him pre-match on the team-sheet playing holding midfield made me cringe.
He was obviously chosen to play to keep us organised on the pitch due to the absence of Lee Cattermole but after Patrick Van Aanholt's brain-fart just a few minutes into the game it kind of made O'Shea's role redundant. He spent the rest of the match doing absolutely nothing productive, gave the ball away more than any other player on the pitch and generally struggled.
I suppose I feel for him in a sense because he's being asked to play a position that doesn't suit him at all but hopefully we've learned from it and elect to play someone else there against Middlesbrough. Obviously we're woefully short of numbers in midfield and Moyes has highlighted this so I'm hoping that by Sunday we'll have a real quality player signed that can jump straight in and contribute. At the very least I'm hoping that Jan Kirchhoff will be fit and ready to play, but we'll see. He clearly has some issues we're trying to nurse him through.
Signing a central midfielder that is ready to play - i.e. not Yann M'Vila, who hasn't completed a proper pre-season programme yet and will be weeks behind in terms of fitness - has to be our priority over the coming days.
Keeping Kone And Kaboul Together Is Imperative
Perhaps the most significant positive we could take from Saturday's defeat was the performances of Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone, who are two players linked with moves away from the club that we really cannot afford to lose.
Watford have been credited with interest in Kaboul over the last few days and whilst that might be a move that suits a player who has spent most of his time playing down south, it doesn't suit us whatsoever and I just hope that the club don't entertain any approaches for him. As a leader on the pitch he's fairly irreplaceable, particularly with us losing Lee Cattermole for a long period.
You don't need me to remind you of the situation regarding Kone but all signs coming out of the weekend were positive - Lamine played like he always does in defence and David Moyes reaffirmed after the game that the player wants to stay here.
Keeping the two together is massive. They're almost irreplaceable at this stage, in my eyes. They're stronger as a unit than they are individually and it must lift the rest of the team around them when you know you have two central defenders that are as imposing and reliable as they are.