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Talking Tactics: Breaking Down Sunderland's Abysmal Approach In The Palace Defeat

A desperate Sunderland managed to throw away a two goal and lose 3-2 to Alan Pardew's Palace. Rory Fallow picks it apart.

At The Back

This was such a mess I'm going to go through it by each area of the pitch. There's that much shit to wade through from this game.

Lamine Kone and Papy Djilobodji continued their partnership at the heart of the defence and we got the same result. Another three goals conceded, just like the last home game. Neither of them fully got to grips with Christian Benteke as the Crystal Palace striker won the same amount of headers on his own as both Kone and Djilobodji did together, with ten. This would be somewhat forgivable if they were then winning the ball when it was brought down but they didn't. Only three tackles between the two (all from Djilobodji) showed they weren't beating Benteke on the ground due to the fact that the number 9 was only dispossessed once. Some credit to Djilobodji for intercepting well and managing to not be too rash when going into challenges but both centre halves were comfortably beaten by a striker who didn't even play particularly well.

The whole back four were disjointed and disorganised. You only have to look at the way Patrick van Aanholt was so easily beaten in the air for Palace's first and second goal. The first, which gave the visitors their route back into the game, a gutless, halfhearted attempt at winning an aerial battle while the second was just shocking marking. The set up for Benteke's winner managed to trump both the previous goals though as none of our players felt it would be good idea to challenge him once the cross came in. Varying degrees of incompetence - well done.

Javier Manquillo managed to not be total embarrassment, so that's worth a mention.

In The Middle

I know that Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff know each other. That's because I watched them play together last season. They may not know Didier Ndong very well, given his recent arrival, but it's still staggering how that midfield three managed to look like total strangers. Kirchhoff looks a shadow of the player we saw last season and he offered no where near enough when we were out of possession. I was harsh on our defenders for not standing up to Benteke in the air but Kirchhoff didn't do his bit either, as Benteke won a lot of his headers in central positions. You'd expect our tall, commanding, central midfielder to be doing more in those situations but he was anonymous.

The leadership and fight from Lee Cattermole was nonexistent either. For a player of his nature, he didn't even attempt a single tackle during his time on the pitch. People may say that both he and Kirchhoff need time to regain their fitness but lack of match practise doesn't matter for basic things like that. If they can't even try to do their simple tasks then what's the point of them being in team at present? If fitness is an issue then they need to get up to speed quickly, as we don't have time to wait for them to become sharper, not when we've only taken one point from six games.

I suppose I should credit Didier Ndong for renewing some energy and enthusiasm into the midfield. The record signing will have to do more and he'll have to do it quickly, but he was still the least worrying of the three.

Given Palace's positives up front and weaknesses in defence, our midfield had to nullify the supply and creating opportunities for our players to hurt them at the back. They didn't do that and that meant that Pardew's men always had a chance of getting back into the game.

Going Forward

It must be so frustrating being Jermain Defoe and watching your colleagues undo your good work. Defoe showed great awareness to seize upon Joe Ledley's mistake and credit to him for keeping on his toes for the second goal, after missing a chance just seconds before.

Defoe was once again starved of service though. Despite some flashes of quality, Adnan Januzaj didn't provide enough going forward to justify his lack of work off the ball. Some nice dribbles, yes, but where was the end product? Once again, it just didn't happen. Between Januzaj and Duncan Watmore, you may actually have a good player. Watmore showed plenty of effort and won a few tackles as he tried to start moves but was easily bullied off the ball in key areas. The striker-cum-winger isn't clever enough when running with the ball, as he keeps to a straight line and overelys on his pace, instead of trying to take the ball away from the defender using some technique. Still, he put the ball across for Defoe's second so at least he had some kind of impact on the game - something you can't say about Januzaj.

What Can David Moyes Do To Change It?

It's hard to say what you can change when there doesn't seem to be a plan in the first place. So I guess there's the problem, try and create something resembling an identity. Not only will that start maybe getting results but supporters will be more forgiving if they can see the start of a playing style. It doesn't even have to be pretty, just something that looks functional.

At the moment, all we're seeing is eleven lads being thrown onto the pitch with little instruction. It looks like our only hope is praying Defoe gets a chance and then we don't concede. Or if we do concede, hope he gets another chance. Where is that chance going to come from though? Duncan Watmore is inconsistent, at best. Adnan Januzaj is unreliable. All the while, Wahbi Khazri continues to sit on the bench, as Paddy McNair gets on before him because he picked up a couple of goals against Championship opposition. If that's the perceived route to glory then god help us.

I'd like it if we could take our focus away from Defoe though. How about trying to keep a clean sheet? Stop letting the opposition have so many shots and get so many crosses in, that would be a start on that front. It's basic but none of our players seem to be able to do the basics right now.

David Moyes is right when he says he can't hold the player's hands during games but he can at least throw them a rope. They don't look like they know what the plan is right now and that's probably where the lack of confidence in the side is coming from. The same confidence is probably being done further harm by then being blamed in the media for their managers short comings. The fact is, both parties are to blame right now but a lot of these players have shown that they can function when given a clear system to play in.

If Moyes can't at least come up with that then he's more at fault than they are.