It’s pretty simple: we have a squad with a decent amount of quality in it; however, we simply don’t have enough quality in reserve if things aren’t working out or players are feeling somewhat jaded. Both Lee Cattermole and Aiden McGeady looked tired yesterday, and whether you think that’s acceptable or not it goes to show that we desperately need quality reinforcements.
This week will give Grayson the chance to experiment in the cup and rest several players/give others a chance to impress, but it really does feel like the side needs several quality additions in order to really push on this season. Yesterday’s bench, for example, was bereft of quality - where’s the dynamic striker and the tricky playmaker? Asoro is young and Khazri just hasn’t cut the mustard so far this season as he looks for an escape from Wearside.
Verdict: What can you say, we played well until the first goal, but there just seemingly isn’t enough quality on the bench to really make a difference when we need it.
Leeds did play well yesterday, but Sunderland could have perhaps played better - or at least smarter.
For once this season we had the lion’s share of possession (55%) and we had more shots on goal; however, the quality just wasn’t there for Sunderland. Only 2/12 of our shots on goal actually hit the target, and it felt like we struggled to consistently create clear chances on goal.
Leeds targeted our full-backs with their pacey forwards, and Jones and Galloway struggled to stand up to their men. Leeds had 8 shots in total and 5 of those found the target - they were efficient with the ball and really gave us a difficult time of it.
The 4-4-2 that has worked so well this season struggled somewhat against Leeds’ fluid shape that resembled a 4-3-3. Leeds were able to both commit numbers to the middle of the park, and further up the pitch while their defence was steadfast to say the least. They were quicker and smarter than us.
Verdict: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Grayson try some new things this week. The 4-4-2 is a decent shape, but we need other options. Perhaps a formation resembling Leeds’ could suit us well when needed?
Substitutions: Lesson learned, but lacking quality
Grayson certainly learned from the Sheffield Wednesday game and made changes with plenty of time to spare yesterday as Matthews replaced Galloway after 55 mins (enforced or not, I think that move was coming); Khazri replaced the ineffective Vaughan at the same time, and then Asoro came on for the final 15 minutes.
Unfortunately, as already noted, I just don’t think we have enough quality in reserve to really swing a game in our favour. That can change of course; perhaps someone plays well against Carlisle, or maybe we bring in several new faces. Ultimately though, we need more options, and that really isn’t Grayson’s fault as he’s not the man in charge of finances and negotiations.
Verdict: Tried to make positive changes, but they just didn’t work. Khazri looked inneffective (read to leave?), and Asoro still looks too young while Matthews was definitely an improvement on Galloway. You can’t really lay much blame at Grayson’s feet for this - financially we’re struggling and bringing new players in isn’t an easy task.
Post-Match Comments: Acknowledges the issues
Grayson really was spot on in his assessment of the match:
For 20 minutes we were dominant. We asked a lot of questions of them.
I don't think (Liam) Cooper knew too much about it when it hit him on the head and hit the bar - 70 seconds later it's in the back of our next. Those are the fine margins in a football match.
From then onwards, I don't think you can fault the players' effort or commitment, but it was just that final ball that really matters, when you're trying to get back in to a game.
He’s right, we struggled after going behind and couldn’t find that bit of quality needed to get back on track.
It really is fine margins in football, but Sunderland need to be a little more capable of making their own luck, and whether that’s through new additions, squad rotation, or tactical tweaks, Grayson will work on those weaknesses as he looks to take this club forward.
Verdict: Positive realism as Grayson took the loss on the chin and acknowledges the need to improve. I have every confidence we’ll do just that with him as manager.