Ten men no excuse for second half surrender
The game’s defining moment was Callum McManaman’s sending off, there’s no denying that, but football is filled with examples of teams fighting and being resilient when reduced to ten men.
Sunderland were pathetic from minute one of the second half. Once Reading realised how brittle we were they cut us open with ease - our late flurry when the Royals eased off in the final 20 minutes doesn’t excuse such a timid showing.
John O’Shea was dreadful throughout, and he continues to stroll through games on Wearside after picking up an unwarranted contract extension in the summer.
Tyias Browning was equally poor when under pressure - the 23 year old has been understandably inconsistent, given he’s never been a first team regular at a club the size of Sunderland before. Unfortunately we don’t have time to wait for the Everton loanee to grow up.
Defending is a team game and Aiden McGeady and Lewis Grabban didn’t help their teammates out enough in the second half. Their pressing from the front lacked intensity and effort, whilst Lee Cattermole and Darron Gibson continue to look too sluggish and too one-paced to play together in the centre of our midfield.
McManaman a disappointment on Wearside
The first yellow card that Callum McManaman received was harsh, and Mo Barrow certainly did a good job of selling the foul to referee Keith Stroud.
Even the deliberate hand-ball is an easy one to berate. In the heat of the moment with the goal gaping, part of me understands how McManaman might have forgot he had been carded and couldn’t resist pushing the ball home.
His dismissal does highlight a wider problem for us, though - McManaman simply hasn’t performed in a Sunderland shirt.
Outside of a decent showing at the KC Stadium against Hull City not long after he first arrived, the former Wigan winger has looked ponderous and passive all season.
What happened to the young, brash forward who ripped Manchester City’s full backs to shreds in an FA Cup final?!
With Duncan Watmore sidelined for the remainder of this season it is vital the Scouser re-finds his mojo, because Sunderland’s status as a Championship club may be riding on it.
Timely reminder of what a flawed team/squad we have
Having a nice, shiny new manager is all well and good, but Sunderland’s squad is devoid of depth and quality in crucial areas and that’s not something Chris Coleman can fix quickly.
Our central midfield continues to cause us all sorts of problems, and all the training time in the world with Coleman won’t give Cattermole and Gibson the legs that they require to effectively play together.
Browning and O’Shea let Sunderland down yesterday, but it’s hard to criticise Coleman for playing them given Marc Wilson has only just returned to fitness and, regardless, has largely underwhelmed in red and white so far.
Sunderland’s spine was weak before Coleman’s arrival and it’s still weak now. Yesterday was a reality check for our new gaffer - and it will be fascinating to see how he and the team react after this latest disappointment.
There’s no questioning the fact that Chris Coleman’s arrival has given everyone a lift. It’s been refreshing to see a team that lacks physicality and height eventually try and play to feet and work the ball through midfield more.
Sunderland are much better off for hiring Coleman - we look much tougher to beat when we have eleven men on the pitch, and the Welshman has changed games with his substitutions in a way that Simon Grayson never did.
Its early days with the team still adapting to Coleman’s demands, but the Black Cat’s first half yesterday and their performance in the first half at Burton Albion last weekend were reminiscent of some of Sunderland’s more tedious displays under Gus Poyet - watching midfielders and defenders move the ball slowly, constantly choosing the easy option, with far too many players being ponderous and risk averse in their play. It had all of the hallmarks of performances in our 2014-15 season where we drew nine of our 38 games 0-0.
Sunderland need at least ten wins between now and May - playing keep ball with our current squad seems unlikely to get us to there.
We’re short of where we want and need to be currently, but it’s too early to panic or draw hasty conclusions. Hopefully Coleman can adapt further over the coming weeks in order to find a way of playing that suits the limited squad that he has to select from.