Team Selection: As good as it could be
We say it nearly every week, but there really is a lack of quality in this Sunderland side. Whether that’s down to the manager or the owner is a different argument entirely, but ultimately Sunderland just don’t currently have the quality capable of troubling teams like City.
That being said, the squad gave a good account of themselves in the opening half before a momentary lapse in concentration gave the ever-dangerous Sergio Aguero the time and space needed to put the visitors in front.
If you really wanted to analyze the performance with a fine tooth-comb you could be critical of Kone’s positioning for both goals, but ultimately the clear difference in quality between the two teams was evident, and City never really looked like losing.
As mentioned though, we really gave a good account of ourselves in the opening half, and credit must be given to the players who harried and chased City during the opening 40 minutes. If Defoe’s effort, or borini’s follow-up had gone in then perhaps we’d be talking about a different story, but unfortunately lady luck abandoned us once more.
The only sour note for me was the continued exclusion of Wahbi Khazri. The lad might be less energetic than Borini, but on the evidence of last season he can make things happen when we need that spark of inspiration. Why he’s limited to a handful of minutes per game is an enigma.
Tom’s rating: 7/10 - The Lads really did give it a good go in the first half, but their lack of athleticism and quality meant that City never really struggled after taking the lead. You can’t complain about the line-up and you can’t really be overly critical of the performance, it’s just a shame that we couldn’t have sprung a surprise to kick-start our march to safety.
As already mentioned, the Lads gave a decent go of it in the first half, mainly down to the midfield’s tenacity and willingness to pressure City at every opportunity. I’m still not sure if we played 4-4-2, 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 as the players seemed to move between positions. This proved effective initially as Borini’s advanced position enabled him to supply Jermain Defoe with an opportunity to shoot if only to hit the post. Furthermore, Januzaj was also able to find space in the formation, yet despite consistently beating men in blue shirts, was unable to produce any final product.
Personally, I think Sunderland looked strong utilizing the 3-5-1-1 system which worked so well against both Spurs and Crystal Palace; Moyes may have been stung by its ineffectiveness in the home defeat to Southampton, yet there was something about the system which really suited our style of play. If he can tinker with that formation and ensure that the full-backs are as effective as the no. 10 in providing options when on the front foot, then Moyes may have found a compact, yet effective strategy which could yield results from counter-attacking football.
Unfortunately the system adopted yesterday relied upon our midfield trio pressing City into mistakes. It worked for the first half, or so, but ultimately asking Larsson and Gibson to match the enthusiasm of Dider Ndong for 90 minutes was always going to be a big ask. Unfortunately the midfield just couldn’t keep up the pressure, and after the first goal went in, City went into cruise control and dominated affairs.
Tom’s rating: 6/10 - A decent idea, yet ultimately we didn’t have the quality, or indeed the athleticism, to effectively follow the plan for 90 minutes. That coupled with some individual errors and bad luck meant yesterday wasn’t to be our day.
Substitutions: Still baffling
I don’t understand why David Moyes seems to wait until around the 70 minute mark each and every game before deciding to make a change. I understand he has a system in place, and it’s his opinion that the players on the field are the most suitable to fulfilling the roles assigned to them. However, week after week he seems hesitant to change anything until it’s too late.
We were 2-0 down by the hour mark, and our first substitution was made ten minutes after conceding the second goal. You would imagine the gaffer would bring on an attacking player to try and find a way back into the game, but to replace Gibson with Rodwell - even if he was carrying an injury - isn’t an exactly a motivational decision.
I know Moyes doesn’t exactly have a lot of options on the bench, but Wahbi Khazri is more than capable of a moment of magic. He provided it on multiple occasions last season as his flair engineered genuine chances for the team. To bring him on with less than ten minutes to go, at 2-0 down was genuinely frustrating.
I understand his conservative approach is to ensure we keep our shape and structure, but why not give something, or someone, a go?
Tom’s rating: 4/10 - I didn’t expect much this weekend, and duly nothing was achieved. I get that we were playing a club with Pep Guardiola at the helm, with money to throw away and a squad riddled with quality, but ha’way - shake something up when the chips are down, have a go! Why not?
Post-Match Comments: Moyes still isn’t great with the media
Speaking to BBC Sport, Moyes was once again rather dull and repetitive in his post match comments.
I don't think you can fault the players for any of that. We lacked quality at times though. They did all they could to try to get something out of the game.
When you're in it every day you see the levels go up. We've got games coming up - we don't have to show it, we have to do it.
We tried to make chances. The one that hits the post and comes out maybe that'll hit the inside of the post and go in next time.
I hope our players understand the position that we're in, but we're not panicking.
Same old, same old; he doesn’t say anything really wrong, but still doesn’t give us blood and thunder - I’d love to see some passion from the man in charge rather than blaming his woes on a lack of quality.
I appreciate the players run around and try their best, but ultimately we’ve seen the same old dross all season, something really needs to change. Moyes seems to have this apathetic approach to the media, which in turn has dulled his players, which in turn has led the fans to adopting a similar attitude. Just look at those fans leaving early: they aren’t doing it out of fury or even laziness, they’re just sick of the same old crap.
I’m sure we can expect more soundbites from the PR and Media department this week as they wheel another player out to ease the fans’ worries via some contrived interview that reeks of bland, sterile, mechanical scripting. Yawn.
Tom’s Rating: 5/10 - Vanilla words from the world’s most vanilla manager.