Manchester City - who I think will win the Premier League this season - would have been expected to beat us comfortably. We battled, we competed and we so very nearly got a point from the Etihad, which I felt would have been more than deserved.
It was a gamble from David Moyes to throw Donald Love and Lynden Gooch straight into the deep end, although to be fair he probably didn’t have much choice. Either way, both looked good but I was particularly impressed with Love at right-back.
However poor Raheem Sterling has been in general since moving to City, he is still a good player and Love dealt with him comfortably. The only concern I would have is whether they can replicate that against the likes of Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hull and other teams we’d expect to beat.
But, in general, I thought the whole team was very good. Patrick van Aanholt gave away a very needless penalty but what impressed me was, unlike last season at the Etihad, we didn’t let City’s lead become a mountain to climb. Instead, we stayed in the game and continued to press them very well.
Paddy McNair was so unlucky with the own goal and he’s still got promise about him as well. I thought he actually did ok when he came on. Speaking of substitutes, Adnan Januzaj looked lively in my opinion but I’m still disappointed we’ve only signed him on loan rather than permanently. Wahbi Khazri didn’t do very much in his cameo but I’d be surprised if he didn’t start against Middlesbrough on Sunday.
As much as I loved Sam Allardyce, one criticism of him was that he waited until the last ten minutes or so to bring players on and more often than not by then it was too late. I was impressed to see Moyes giving players nearly half an hour to impact the game. Obviously I didn’t expect Januzaj and Khazri to really go at Man City but we instantly looked fresher when they came on.
It’s early days yet but now we look forward to Middlesbrough, our first home game of the season. We’ve got no right to win this game more than Boro because every team has every right to win every game but out of our first five games, this is the one you’d point to and say: ‘that’s our best chance to get a win’.
Middlesbrough will be hard of course and I think they’ve signed good players such as Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo. Aitor Karanka is a good manager too and I’m sure he will keep them up.
It’s vital we perform on Sunday like we’ve shown we clearly can do. By this point I’m fed up of the pre-season optimism that we’ll have a good year being quickly diminished in the first few league games of the campaign. We’ve set the minimum standard for ourselves, it’s vital that we keep reaching that target every week, especially in winnable games.
Off the field, since I wrote my blog last week we’ve seen Lamine Kone being linked with a move away and now there’s the hint that Younes Kaboul could go too.
Kone in particular is an interesting one; if Sunderland had promised him a new and improved contract if we stayed up last season then, for me, that should have been done as soon as last season ended or at the very least before the start of pre-season.
Moyes has come out and said that he will be offered a new deal at the start of September which to me says: ‘if you’re still a Sunderland player by then, we’ll give you a new deal. But we may still sell you if the right offer comes in’. That could be me reading too much into it and I hope the reason that transfers are the main priority is the sole reason why Kone’s contract situation hasn’t been resolved. That ‘statement’ that was released on Thursday I believe was more his agent than anything else. I just don’t buy that Kone doesn’t want to be here after six months where he has seemingly enjoyed himself. But I think there’s more to come in this ‘saga’.
What I will say is this - if Sunderland are serious about actually progressing from the underachievement we’ve seen in the last four seasons then selling Kone and/or Kaboul would be football suicide.
For years we’ve had next to no saleable assets and when we finally have some it feels like we’re not allowed to just keep them and improve as a team.
We shouldn’t be in a position where we have to sell before we can buy if we really must sell some of our best players then I at least want us to be a lot meaner and nastier in how much we demand. In a world were Gini Wijnaldum, who didn’t turn up away from home and got relegated, goes for £25m and Moussa Sissoko, who has done nothing for two years at Newcastle, is apparently worth £35m, then I expect Kone to be worth between £30-40m. We need to play hard ball and not just take the first good offer which comes our way.
I want Sunderland to not be a selling club anymore, although we haven’t exactly seen much selling over the last few years. West Ham are a prime example of what I want us to be. I’m not saying we can go and do what they’ve done but they’ve kept their better players and signed quality. If not West Ham, then doing what Stoke do would suffice easily.
There’s still a few weeks in the transfer window and there will be more players coming in. Moyes knows more than anyone else we need numbers but especially additional quality.
Let’s just see what the rest of the window brings.
- Middlesbrough Aren’t Fit For A Derby; Is Koné Goné & Januzaj Sings
- A Love Supreme: Adnan Januzaj & The Six Minutes That Defined His Career
- Quick Kicks: Man City 2 - 1 Sunderland - Thoughts & Reaction To Saturday's Defeat
- Premier League Phrontistery: Week One
- Talking Tactics With Rory Fallow: Manchester City v SAFC