WE NEED A PREDATOR!
Grabban is doing his best impersonation of Jermain Defoe right now and it's no shame on him that he isn't quite pulling it off. The role we're utilising him in requires that when he gets on the ball, he is capable of either setting his feet or moving into space, either way we expect something to happen.
It was always going to be true that we wouldn't adequately replace Defoe any time soon, but fans were fed the concept of two or three half-decent attacking forwards combining to achieve the same effect. As it stands we know Grabban is half-decent and McGeady is a threat, but we cannot reasonably expect either to be prolific. We need a predator - someone who will get us goals out of nothing. Unfortunately Grabban, and indeed Vaughan, don’t look like that kind of player.
Experience can be very sexy, but...
McGeady doesn't just have flair to his play, he has crucial match experience. This, coupled with his deft touch, allows for some true style on the pitch. The real shame of having McGeady at this time in his career - and this austere time for the club - is that he's slowing down and will only truly excel when he's supported properly. A player like McGeady shouldn't have to track back and help by his own goal, so the question has to be asked: even though he is our most creative player, is it safe to rely on that in games where we can't guarantee dominance?
Ndong is strong but inconsistent
He's wise beyond his years, Didier, and while the speculation in football circles of late may be just that; speculation, we should be wary of him attracting suitors at this late stage of the window, particularly when Grayson is desperate for reinforcements and has already hinted that most of the squad are for sale for the right price.
Today saw a dip in his performance and it’s easy for all to see that he’s crying out for less responsibility on the ball. On a good day, N'dong's passing accuracy alone is worth keeping him and he's arguably one of the most talented midfielders in the division. While we may be seeing the symptoms of a struggle to adapt to a new team and league, we'll struggle to replace him if he goes. We should keep that in mind in the upcoming days of the window.
Where we stand now?
Patience is certainly a virtue in following this club, but it has it's limits. While they may not have been reached yet, we're probing the boundaries of goodwill here. No blame should be placed on Grayson for having such a thin squad and limited tactics – it's precisely because of that that we are unable to switch between settings, stuck in first gear or neutral. He doesn't have the time or depth required to train his team in more than one or two tactics, and that limits him greatly. If he can't use his half-time talk to galvanise the squad and change their approach then he has no reliable reinforcements to call upon - as alluded to by Khazri's inclusion in the squad, never mind on the bench.
It's evident to me, and I'm sure it is to Simon Grayson, that we need no less than four new players, and that's a conservative estimate. What's more: in a transfer market we were priced out of before the window opened, not only do we need so many but we also need them to be players of at least the same calibre as Lewis Grabban. We cannot accept anything lower than that (Vaughan), because it's what we already have. It's pretty grim to use him as my yard stick here, I'm sure you'll agree. That's how low our standards are now. No disrespect to the man himself (see above) but we really should have more promising prospects. It really highlights how little we have to show for ten years at the top level.
The chances of Vaughan coming good grow more astronomical by the week.
It's no secret to any of us that Vaughan doesn't deserve the awesome “Hitman” photoshop treatment given him for our podcast, but it's fair to say we all still hold out hope that every time the ball comes near him he'll just switch on. So far he hasn't and I want to make a comparison for you, a comparison to a cheap, second hand product you bought because you had no real guidance in the market.
You buy a toaster. That's what it does – it toasts. Except yours doesn't. Yours won't stay down where it's supposed to and either spits out a half-arsed effort or burns everything. You know it does this because you've given it bread half a dozen times now, expecting it to make toast, and it's screwed you over.
When you get up every morning and put bread into that broken toaster and expect to have anything other than a shit morning, you're either stupid or bones-of-your-arse skint. I don't think Simon Grayson is stupid, I just don't believe he is being supported in the transfer market. Which takes me to my next point.
Austerity means austerity.
There’s no money, is there? I don't believe Simon Grayson has the money to operate at the level we (and the board) expect. One of the main reasons the man himself cites for his own employment is his ability to work within a tight budget. I wouldn’t be surprised to find, if we could hear the man’s most personal thoughts, that inside he’s screaming “You said tight, not nonexistent!”
Consider for a moment that you’re a prospective player, and you’re contacted by Sunderland. What will you expect, considering a move to a club that touts itself as “huge”, and acts as if this whole relegation thing is just a speed bump? You’d expect money, and after you get your money you’d expect to win consistently because you’ve been promised you and a few choice others will make the difference. On top of that, you know the club needs you more than you need the club. Is it any wonder we’re struggling to make sense of this market? Grayson may say the right words in the right ear when a player is struggling with self-esteem issues, but is he little more than a capable manager that knows a few lads? When the little black book runs out of familiar names, who is left at Sunderland AFC to find the talent that’s going to make the difference?
With no one stepping up to take the blame or responsibility, pressure will continue to mount on this fragile squad in the birthing stages of this season. We’re cast out of the Premier League, screaming into the Championship and that bitch of a mother doesn’t want us back, which suits us fine - we aren’t going back up looking like this.