Still Too Easy To Break Down
After the Everton defeat I bemoaned how we'd regressed in that we were no longer hard to beat. On the evidence of this game against Tottenham, that doesn't look like changing any time soon. Despite a stronger looking line up, on paper at least, we still allowed the opposition far too many chances as Spurs had 31 shots on goal. A 1-0 defeat away to a very strong side may not be something to be ashamed of but David Moyes can't kid himself here, Jordan Pickford kept things from being embarrassing for Sunderland. The young goalkeeper once again proved why he deserves to be the number 1, as he made eight saves while looking calm, confident and commanding.
It was obvious where the issues lie. Lamine Kone was decent enough but what can he do when he's playing alongside someone like Papy Djilobodji, who keeps making basic errors? We all saw the sheer ineptitude from him that allowed Harry Kane the chance to score from six yards and there wasn't really much else you can say about the former Chelsea man. That's twice in a week that he's cost us goals and his place in the starting line up needs to be considered. Simple mistakes and nowhere near enough composure. It's just not good enough.
It was also a tough afternoon for the out of position Jason Denayer, on his full debut. Somewhat mysteriously thrown in for Patrick van Aanholt at the last minute, centre half by trade Denayer endured a torrid time against the on song Son Hueng-min. Son completed four dribbles in the game, the most of any Spurs player, all of which came down the Sunderland defensive right, showing just who was on top in this duel.
It was a very bad day defensively for The Lads but cut out some basic errors, which may mean having to make further changes, and get players back in their preferred positions and they may be able to restrict teams chances. That looks like very wishful thinking at the moment though.
No Attacking Intent Whatsoever
I'm not usually one for heatmaps but, my word, have a look at the time each team spent in the others box.
In case you needed it clarifying, ours is on the right.
As I mentioned in the previous section, I'm fine with us trying to become defensive and making ourselves hard to beat but we still need to show something resembling a will to attack. I know Spurs are good but we treated them like they were Barcelona, not a team who a very capable of doing something very Spurs-like. You'd have thought at half time, after some good play actually fashioned us a chance that we should have scored, we'd have realised that the home side had their vulnerabilities. We didn't test Hugo Lloris at all though and apart from Duncan Watmore flashing a ball across goal, we never even had a sniff of a chance.
Of course Spurs were dominant and restricted our possession but you still have to try and make your time on the ball count. Our ability to create is probably best summed up by the fact that our goalkeeper made more passes than any other Sunderland player but even that was a lowly 36. We were creating against teams like Spurs towards the end of last season though, which makes it all the more frustrating. David Moyes needs to get his team to start making goalkeepers work and I don't mean ours.
A No Show From Januzaj
He played his part in Steven Pienaar's chance - I'll give him that - but this was a dreadful showing from Adnan Januzaj. The winger was pulling out of challenges throughout the match and then was sent off for a stupid, petty and pretty cowardly late tackle. Just plain idiocy.
A pitiful pass completion percentage of 37% and being dispossessed on five occasions shows just how little of an impact Januzaj had on the game. It meant Jermain Defoe was always going to be short on chances and the only chance he got to test Lloris was from a well executed Pickford long ball.
We need to see more of the Januzaj that came off the bench against Manchester City and danced past defenders if we're to have a main man supplying Defoe. At the moment though, it looks like teams can mark him out of the game with ease, as he's Sunderland's only real threat. If you can push him back, meaning he receives the ball too deep, then his trickery and pace can be easily dealt with. Perhaps a move back to a freer role will see him cause more damage but that's just wishful thinking at the moment.
At Least The Midfield Is Closer To What's Needed
I'm really straining for a positive here and I'll try to end on one, so please indulge me. I was quite impressed by Didier Ndong on his full debut. The record signing attempted four tackles, made three interceptions and completed the highest amount of passes from any Sunderland outfield player with twenty-eight. Ndong looked quite dynamic in his ability to get up and down the pitch quickly, while his desire for a tackle will certainly endear him to the Sunderland faithful. Furthermore, if we're not going to get performances out of Januzaj, maybe Ndong could be the man to unlock the door against lesser opposition, as he'll be allowed to push further forward.
Alongside Ndong, we had the return of Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff making his second appearance of the season. Both men still looked behind on their fitness but Cattermole's energy and presence was certainly a welcome return, as he made four interceptions (more than anyone on the field) and attempted five tackles (the joint highest with Kirchhoff).
Despite their lack of time on the ball, all three midfielders did well in terms of completing their passes and not squandering their limited possession. With 92% completed, Ndong was showing the type of composure we need in the middle, the kind that Idrissa Gueye had shown against us in the Everton match. Cattermole wasn't far behind with 85% and Kirchhoff completed 75%. While this wasn't a game to remember for any of our midfield three we at least saw glimmers that they could work well as a trio, especially in games against lower opposition. It may be a stretch to take that a positive out of the game but it's a straw to clutch on to.