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Grayson’s Anatomy: Rating the Sunderland manager after a hearty... draw?!

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Team selection, substitutions and post-match comments - we analyse them all! How did Simon Grayson rate after this Saturday’s draw with Hull City?

RokerReport.com

Tactics

Sunderland relied a lot on the attacking impetus of the squad on Saturday, it wasn’t a defensive affair at all, until it was and we suffered for it. In the positive moments of the game Grayson relied on the ability of his players to make the difference - something we all hope for. Some showed the faith in them was appropriate, others were clearly there to make up numbers. Unfortunately the next four months will be a balancing act, with the only exception being the unlikely invulnerability and hypothetical peak form of all the solid performers we have on paper.

Sunderland played to all their current strengths against Hull. We forced play through the midfield, arguably our only strong position, and relied on creative players to create chances. The manager can’t reasonable expect much more of the dulled weapon presented him.

We can all see Grayson's end game here. The issue has never been about whether he was up for the job or whether or not we have enough money to make it happen, I suppose it's always just been about whether or not the people on the ground have the heart and determination to give their all, and whether that can translate to tangible performances. I can't fault Simon Grayson for anything that goes wrong, as I equally can't praise him for all that goes right. I think this is the period where we need to recognise that Grayson is more like a warden in this story, than a hero. Sunderland's story will play out this season, and regardless of the cast it will be for better or worse. Little nuggets from small victories like the draw on Saturday will be the crumbs that sustain us through the foreseeable future, until we can reinforce again in January. If we can reinforce in January.

Verdict: A good display of solidarity, if not forward planning.


Team selection: The usual suspects

Bar a few missing pieces the puzzle of Sunderland's presiding XI is coming together for Simon Grayson. While yesterday was no finished article, it was a glimpse of the team's adhesion taking shape. Whether through attention to physical fitness, the introduction of fresh blood or by baptism of fire – teamwork is becoming apparent.

Simon Grayson is clearly making headway with his squad. The addition of McManaman, Williams and Wilson is showing early signs of cohesion and can, today at least, lay claim to working spirit that they began with and saw out through the match. But for a brief foray into the post-equaliser blues, they maintained their shape and kept to their duties.

This is something that we can only attribute to their own instincts as players and to the intentions of the coaching team that oversees them. Thumbs up to the backroom staff for the efforts of most involved, because we saw a lot more fortitude on Saturday.

James Vaughan has had the benefit of the doubt from Simon Grayson and repaid the gaffer in kind with a clinical head – a weight off the minds of both, I'm sure. It has to be said though that James Vaughan practically signalled his request from the pitch a fair ten minutes before it happened, with his little limp and his hand raised to the dugout. He perhaps isn't ready for ninety minutes – particularly if he plays consistently with the same spirit as he did on Saturday.

Verdict: Logical, and close to completion.


Substitutions: Pointless, even debilitating

It's not fun having to repeat yourself, but something the manager has to work on is his timing. Substitutions aren't just excess minutes to be thrown away; they have incredible value. That time - no matter how limited it may seem - is precious. With the right attitude, and the right words in the right ears, it can be used to change games. That in itself is the very essence of the role of a coach, and the ultimate purpose of the touchline.

Regardless of his poor timing though, nothing stings quite so much as his selection for fresh ideas on the pitch. If I were Simon Grayson, I could comprehend his choices for substitutions. I would also likely be fooled, as so many have been before, by the price tag of Jack Rodwell and his lovely baby face. But as a fan and a veteran watcher of Jack Rodwell's on-pitch performance, I'm tired that he's even expected to perform some kind of urgent, impacting role on a game. Again, granted we're thin on the ground but if the time has come that the best possible scenario in a 1-0 lead against Hull is Jack Rodwell – what the fuck are we all doing here?

SAFC.com

The moment the decision was made to throw on... whatever Simon Grayson think's Jack Rodwell is, was the moment we took a back seat and invited pressure. And this is an imporant thing to note so far in Simon Grayson's Sunderland – we invite pressure. We don't counter pressure, we don't resist it and we don't have the defence in place to ward it off indefinitely.

And you know something? If we're relying on the return of Watmore and McGeady to add venom to our bite – fantastic. I welcome that and I hope and pray for it as much as the next fan, even despite my concerns that with everything surrounding not just the current team ability and league position, but the whole club in general. Watmore (like Gooch and Maja and Honeyman) is being thrown into a pit that might break his very talented wings before they’re ready to fly.

If Grayson isn't prepared to replace our only striker with enough time for whoever takes his place to make a difference, some might say that it's a result of the lack of squad depth. Of course that’s true. We’re hardly inundated with qualified strikers here. But coming from a man that stated he “needs goals from all over the pitch”, one would expect him to have a contingency plan for when James Vaughan gets knackered after 70 minutes.

Verdict: With no time or money to reinforce, nothing can be done. Unless free agents are the next valuable commodity to be bought on Wearside, we’re not going to see much change here.


Post-match comments: Honest, disappointed

When you look at how we dominated the game in the first half, the chances we created; we were disappointed to have not won the game. We had to stay strong and we were probably hanging on at the end... There were a lot of tired lads out there who have not played a lot of football over the last few weeks and months and they were on their last legs.

This is an interesting insight to the man, I think. He knew that the first half would be the strongest we could produce, yet failed to recognise the need for an impactful change (or accepted the inability to do so), as again evidenced by what he said about them being on “their last legs”. He knew he was pushing the team as far as he could push them. A wise move?

We wanted to break the cycle of four straight defeats. Of course, we are disappointed to have not won the game, we had some great opportunities and the keeper made a great save from Callum McManaman.

Ultimately, for all the pressure they had on us it was a deflected goal that equalised for them. We are disappointed, and it is a disappointing dressing room because we felt we should’ve won the game this afternoon.

Personally, having watched the initial goal and the replay, I saw Robin Ruiter (who made some fantastic saves and perhaps challenged his detractors with such a consistently fine if nervy display) with time to collect the ball coming to his shins, as he dropped to his knees and allowed it to spill from his hands. But that’s one man’s opinion - view it for yourself.

In a sense: we should be disappointed. Hull are about as close as we can expect to come to a club with as many injury and personnel problems as we have this season. If we’re going to be given a beatable opponent this season, it’s Hull City.

But Grayson is right to not focus on that. His remit now is to nurture whatever talent and heart we saw on the pitch against some of our closest equals in this league so far, and do his best to apply that in the trials ahead.

Verdict: We should have won, but the focus now will be on the next game. Justifiably so, more than has ever been the case so far in 2017, we have some semblance of an identity going in to the next match.