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Grayson’s Anatomy: Baffling substitutions but a vindicated striker selection - mixed bag

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Team selection, tactics, substitutions and post-match comments are all analysed in Grayson’s Anatomy. How did the gaffer do when we took on Brentford at the weekend?

Another bad day at the office?
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Team Selection - So-So

Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Simon Grayson made two changes to the side that drew with Queens Park Rangers, with Lamine Kone and Lewis Grabban coming in to the side in place of Adam Matthews and James Vaughan.

Though the inclusion of Kone may seem somewhat controversial, one look at the bench would perhaps suggest that Grayson had very little choice beyond throwing Jack Rodwell or Billy Jones in there - Kone, I’d suggest, was the safest option of the three.

I fully supported the decision to include Lewis Grabban, and it was one that paid off as the former Norwich striker bagged another two goals to take his tally for the season up to five. Grabban is not perfect, but he’s a damn-sight better than James Vaughan.

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The one decision that I did disagree with was Jason Steele starting in goal again ahead of Robbin Ruiter. Steele had yet another shocker between the sticks and Grayson’s continued support of the ex-Boro stopper surely has to be on the wane.

Verdict: Alright, I guess - Steele, Honeyman & Jones the only dubious selections.


Tactics - Negative & Uninspiring?

Brentford are known for their ability to play possession football, so it would have been unreasonable to expect the Lads to head to Griffin Park and play our opponents off the park - it’s just not Grayson’s style.

From the off it was clear we intended to go from back to front very quickly, and as seen in two of the goals that we scored, it was a tactic that worked. Bryan Oviedo’s superb long pass put Lewis Grabban in on goal for his first, whilst Duncan Watmore’s immense run to win our penalty was evidence of just how important the ex-England U21 international can be to Sunderland going forward.

Brentford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Having led the game 3-1 up at half time we re-emerged after the break sitting deeper than we did in the first, playing cautiously and without confidence. It seemed clear that the players had been briefed to defend their lead, something which saw us allow Brentford back into the game. If you hadn’t noticed already, we aren’t great at defending.

Once Brentford scored their second from a direct free-kick their tails were up and it just seemed inevitable that they’d end up getting another eventually. And that’s why, in my view, this was perhaps the most disappointing result of the season - because despite having such a magnificent lead, we still couldn’t hold it against a side that are - and the league table doesn’t lie - fairly poor, all things considered.

Verdict: Our game management was horrific in the second half.


Substitutions - Baffling

Duncan Watmore looked spent by the time he was taken off in place of Callum McManaman in the 67th minute - it’s a tough one to analyse though, because although Grayson really had no choice, with the wide-man tiring, we looked exposed without him on the pitch, working hard up and down our right-hand side.

Grayson then waited until Brentford had levelled the game before making any further changes, and the final two were about as uninspiring as our brand of football in the second period. James Vaughan replaced Lewis Grabban for all of ten minutes, a decision that I fail to understand as by that point we’d already thrown our lead away and Grabban was the only Sunderland player on the pitch that had scored a goal from open play all afternoon.

Brentford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Aiden McGeady was brought off with the game still wide open - a strange decision
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

The same goes for the decision to bring off Aiden McGeady in the 89th minute. Why? Sure, he might have been tired, but when you really need to win a game, why take off the only player in your arsenal capable of scoring a goal out of nothing?

Maybe I’m being hyper critical, I dunno - I just don’t get the logic behind bringing off your only two goal threats, tired or not, when you’ve managed to chuck a decent lead away.

Verdict: The last two were nonsensical changes.


Post-Match Comments - *WHISTLES*

We responded well to going a goal down early to a soft goal against – I thought Lee Cattermole was fouled in the build-up when we had the ball. To lose a 3-1 lead is disappointing. When you're in that situation you want to see the game through.

The second goal was very close to being a good tackle by Didier. I think he got the ball and then we're disappointed to see it in the back of our net. We responded well again, didn't buckle too much and were asking questions on the counter attack. Then the third goal's a huge deflection.

It seems as though Grayson’s blaming bad luck for the result - this after we’ve been awarded a soft penalty and their keeper palms one into his own net. Anyways...

When you get 3-1 up you want to win the game, but it's three games unbeaten so the glass is half-full and we'll look to build on it next week now.

Three games unbeaten. Fantastic.

Six points is the objective, of course it is (when talking about the next two games).

We need to build on the last few games, and performances to a certain degree.

The focus is three points on Saturday and then we will move on to the midweek game.

Great.

Verdict: I can’t be bothered to pick apart his words any more. Just... blergh.