Team Selection: Constant
I was pleased to see Grayson had decided to play the same starting XI against Sheffield Wednesday last night as he did against Norwich on Sunday. It makes no sense to tinker with a winning formula, and Grayson’s show of faith in his men will have done wonders for their confidence.
Indeed starting the game Sunderland looked the better side, and could have ended the half with several goals after Honeyman’s early strike put us in the lead. Again we had limited possession, but worked hard off the ball and pressed Sheffield all over the pitch.
However, one thing that does worry me slightly is the squad’s general depth in terms of quality replacements ready to take their chance in the side when called upon. Looking at that Sunderland bench last night had me a little worried, and I feel like we need at least four new faces if we are to really have a squad capable of finding some success this season.
Khazri looks like he’s keen to leave while rumours continue to swirl around the future of Lamine Kone. If they go then we’re down to Djilibodji or O’Shea in the centre of defence, and limited cover in midfield in the form of Gibson and Gooch. We need some extra bodies in as soon as possible - especially considering we have 3 games in the next 9 days!
Verdict: Nothing wrong with the starting XI whatsoever, but we can’t expect them to play game after game; we need reinforcements to keep these lads fresh and ready to fight.
We’re only three games into the season, and if truth be told we look quite solid from a tactical viewpoint. We play some nice football at times and look very solid in terms of our defensive abilities - in fact it took a Dave Jones rocket to break down a tired Sunderland side yesterday.
That being said, in every game so far this season we’ve had less than 50% possession, and my worry is that once sides figure out how to play against our high-pressure, counter-attacking football then we might struggle to replicate our early season form.
Don’t get me wrong, we play some excellent football at times, and have the direct option available thanks to Grabban and Vaughan; however, there were a few moments during last night’s game when I just wanted someone to calm the game down and keep possession. We didn’t look capable of doing that, perhaps due to tired legs.
Maybe tinkering with the system in the coming weeks might help a little. Working Darron Gibson in the middle of the park alongside Cattermole and Ndong would create more opportunity to dictate the play, and could help us add an extra edge to our game.
Verdict: Solid against a decent Sheffield Wednesday side, but need to perhaps expand our play somewhat as the season progresses - again it’s early doors, and Grayson is no mug.
I really don’t want to be critical of Grayson because the job he has done so far at our club has been nothing short of fantastic. Last night though, I do honestly think that Grayson could have made changes a little sooner than he did.
It was clear to see that the Sunderland players’ legs were beginning to falter as the game wore on, but Grayson held off making a change until the 80th minute - perhaps fresh impetus could have been found a little sooner if changes had been made.
Then again, perhaps Grayson was trying to hold some semblance of shape and order hoping that his men would work their way back into contention for a winner? Either way Grayson will have learned from last night’s substitutions, and it will be interesting to see if he changes his approach in the coming games.
Verdict: Probably the only aspect of the game that I was genuinely disappointed with; then again if you’d told me a month ago that we’d have taken 5 points from Derby, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday I’d have laughed in your face. So maybe I’m just overreacting.
Post-Match Comments: Fair
Grayson was quick to acknowledge the result was probably quite fair in the end. Sunderland should have scored more in the opening half while Wednesday had several chances to win the game at the death:
It was two types of different performances from us. If we had taken the chances we would have won the game. We were comfortable up until they scored the goal, and that got their tails up and we found it difficult.
It's probably a fair result, if we had got the second goal when we had the chances we would have won it. You come to a difficult place and get a point you will probably take it.
Again, it’s all a learning curve for Grayson and his men right now, and I’m personally over the moon at the start we’ve made. I’m sure Grayson and his coaching staff will go away and analyse last night’s performance in an effort at ironing out any issues with their approach ahead of the weekend’s game at home to Leeds.
Verdict: Fair words from the gaffer. I’m sure he’ll have seen how tired his Lads were by the end of the game, and will have them ready to go again on Saturday. I think it’s definitely worth noting though just how positive Grayson is - it’s such a refreshing change from Moyes’ approach last season, and fills me full of confidence ahead of the season ahead.