Team Selection: Baffling
Let me get this straight before we delve fully in to proceedings - David Moyes had very few options when selecting his team for this game; I fully acknowledge that fact. The players that he had available to him were pretty much his only options, so finding a way of getting them to work was critical.
Quite why the Sunderland manager opted to move players around when we seemed to function fairly well in the previous game against Burnley - keeping a clean sheet in the process - was beyond me. I get that a cup performance isn't really a true reflection of anything, but he still kept most of the same team in each game so it would have made most sense to at least focus on the positives from that performance and build upon them.
We've well established by now that the partnership of John O'Shea and Papy Djilobodji is completely disastrous and should never be experimented with again. With Jason Denayer in the centre of defence against Burnley we completely negated the threat of Andre Gray and Denayer had his best game of the season in his natural position - yet the decision was made to shift him back in to the midfield where he endured a torrid time, replaced in the centre of our back line by O'Shea again who had little effect on the game.
Similarly, Donald Love partnered well with Jack Rodwell in the centre of midfield against Burnley, yet the Sunderland manager opted to shift Love to full back when he had two other right back options on the bench. And Donald suffered - he was constantly targeted by the Stoke attack and couldn't handle what the Potters had to offer.
What was the thinking behind this? I can't get my head around why you'd change a defence that had just kept a clean sheet in their previous game, especially when the centre back pairing that he chose is one that has consistently leaked goals when they've been put together.
Gav's rating: 0/10 - Inexcusable. Options were limited, but it's not good enough.
Tactics: What Are Tactics?!
We spoke earlier in the season about Sunderland lacking identity under David Moyes on multiple occasions, but with the introduction of Victor Anichebe to our side we seemed to find a way of playing which suited the players that we had in the team at the time.
Since then Anichebe - and countless others, might I add - have suffered injuries which has thrown all of that good work down the toilet.
On Saturday our options were undoubtedly limited, but what you could say is that with the correct plan of action and with each player fully understanding their roles, we could have played a more possession-based game which suited our smaller attackers.
Instead, what we did get were long balls from Vito Mannone to Adnan Januzaj - who stands at a monstrous 5"11 and weighs about the same as a packet of Skips - and long diagonal balls from Papy Djilobodji to the towering presence of Fabio Borini, who spent most of the game being man-marked by Erik Pieters - bypassing our entire midfield in the process.
Brilliant - a brand of liquid football that makes it worth buying a season ticket for.
Gav's rating: 0/10 - Frustrating, both for the fans and the players.
Substitutions: What Are Substitutions?!
I've included this section this week purely for banter purposes.
Gav's rating: 10/10 - Great subs.
Post-Match Comments: 'Positives'
David Moyes appeared to dance around the real issues coming out of Saturday's game in his post-match email, instead preferring to talk about the 'positives'.
It was a poor opening part of the game from us, not necessarily that we played badly, but three mistakes have cost us.
We made it really difficult for ourselves and we were punished, but we got a goal back and in the second half we were better.
We knew if we got a second goal we’d have the crowd behind us, but we created a couple of chances and unfortunately we couldn’t score.
It would have been easy for the boys to hide and not try and take the ball, but Jack [Rodwell] had a chance, Fabio [Borini] had a chance and Jermain [Defoe] got himself in positions, we just didn’t get anything from them.
We have been losing too many games this season but we’ve been using our home form as a positive and a confidence booster; if you take away the first 20 minutes of today’s game we did as much as Stoke today, but obviously it’s a 90 minute game and you have to be ready from minute one.
Everyone knows we have injuries and players that are away, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. The players that are out there have to perform.
We’ve got the cup replay on Tuesday at Burnley, which will be another tough game, but we want to win it.
Ultimately the big take from this game is that we don't have enough good players, we don't have a clear plan of action, the players that we do have don't have the right attitudes and that the manager doesn't particularly rate the young players that featured on the bench. Fan-bloody-tastic.
The optimism that I felt about Moyes' reign as manager in November and the early parts of December seems to have completely disappeared now. The likes of Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini and Patrick Van Aanholt have become the subject of interest from elsewhere and you wouldn't blame them for having lost faith in this club either.
It showed in their body language at the weekend that they aren't feeling too happy at the minute and getting out of January unscathed cannot come quick enough, for me. I wish that we could fast-forward through the next few weeks.
The manager is powerless to preventing interest in his players from other clubs but what he can do is be more endearing - at least project yourself as someone that feels confident in his abilities, David.
Gav's Rating: 0/10 - As bad as we have been this season, that felt like the worst.