Team Selection: Superb
Simon Grayson’s decision to play the same side that drew at home to Derby last week was no real surprise. The defence grew into the game, the midfield were energetic and creative and the strikeforce were a real handful - all of which had the fans buzzing.
Grayson decided not to stick with his midweek tinkering, instead opting to keep the front two that had looked dangerous last week, and he will have been delighted with his side’s response to the trust he placed in them.
Every player in that starting eleven showed grit, determination, aggression, and a desire to win. It was a pleasure to watch, and fans will be excited at the season ahead. People will rightly point to Aiden McGeady and Lewis Grabban as match winners, but Lee Cattermole was once again phenomenal. Tenacious in defence and active in attack, Catts sprayed the ball around for fun yesterday - Grayson has him and his teammates playing some great football.
Verdict: Team selection was consistent and players are buying into Grayson’s tactics - fantastic to watch.
For so long last season we yearned for a side capable of playing fast, direct football and yesterday Sunderland provided just that.
Norwich had over 70% of the possession, yet struggled to fashion clear cut chances - instead relying on set-pieces to create the vast majority of their opportunities on goal. Grayson’s men on the other hand were compact and incredibly difficult to break down. Norwich just couldn’t find a way through other than for an unfortunate Grabban own goal, and that stubbornness in defence was absolutely superb.
When Sunderland had the ball though, they were efficient with it and put the Norwich defence to the sword. We’ve noted before that Grayson’s side like to mix up their style of play, and yesterday again showed that. The first goal was route one, the second a piece of individual brilliance, and the third a direct goal that came from some neat build up play. Sunderland seem comfortable playing a number of different ways and that can only be a good thing going forward.
Verdict: Grayson has his tactics spot on, and with another couple of additions he will have a squad depth capable of maintaining his style of play across a long, arduous season.
The game was essentially won by the time Grabban completed a peculiar hat-trick, but Grayson waited until the final 15 minutes to make his changes. You’d imagine that was to keep the structure that had worked so well throughout the game intact, and you’ll find no complaints about that here.
Yesterday was a great win and I don’t want to delve too deep into the inner workings of Grayson’s subs - they came on, steadied the ship and provided fresh legs. Job done.
Verdict: Would like to see some youngsters given more game time going forward, but yesterday was all about the three points - which we duly earned.
Post-Match Comments: Grounded
Grayson noted immediately just how important the win was for his Sunderland side, and how impressed he was with his players:
This is a tough place to come to and we knew they would be putting us under pressure in their first home game of the season, but I thought the lads stuck to the game plan really well.
That being said, Grayson was also quick to remind fans and players alike that the season is merely in its infancy, and there’s a long way to go:
It's a great win and it has been a strongish start for us - but that's all it is, a good start, and no-one is getting carried away.
Grayson’s steely tone continued on as he provided yet more soundbites to get the fans on board. Looking forward is key if Sunderland are to succeed this season, and Grayson knows that quite clearly:
What has happened here is in the past - it's all about what happens in the future now and what I will say is that I have got a good, hard-working group here - it's a working class city and that's what the people demand.
So a 3-1 win and a brilliant performance, yet Grayson wants more? Class! The man is clearly an ambitious manager, and it’s exciting to hear him talk about needing to carry on with this good form. For too long the club have been stuck in a short-termist approach to football - Simon Grayson, however, seems the real deal as he builds a squad aiming to finish high.
Verdict: Impressed with the way Grayson is keen to keep his players grounded. Yes the result was brilliant and I’m sure he’ll have told the players just that, but as he mentioned, it’s still early days. Grayson, however, seems just the man to keep these Lads on the right track. A superb win and performance.