Selection: Ndong benched, Cattermole's poor form ignored & Ruiter scapegoated
Honestly, I look at the team that Grayson fielded against a mediocre Ipswich side and it makes me sigh. I'm frustrated, you're frustrated, and I hope even Simon himself is frustated by his own decisions.
Clearly he feels he has very few options with this squad, and on the face of it that might seem true. It's hardly the deepest of squads, and even then the quality of more than half of them leaves so much to be decided. Problem is that I can see the faults in these players, so why can't Grayson?
Lee Cattermole hasn't played a decent ball in 2017. The purchase of Jason Steele – a former player derided by his former team so much that they laughed as we paid them actual money for him - equaled 25% of our entire transfer budget in this window just gone. I'll let that sink in. Robin Ruiter isn't ever going to replace Jordan Pickford by any stretch of the imagination, but he at least has shown his quality in individual moments since he arrived. The poor play of his defensive line shouldn't be enough to see his starting berth given away so hastily; it seems like the manager is following the old “competition is healthy” route of man-management, but it's starting to feel like if you asked him to define the word “confidence” you'd get a blank stare in response.
Verdict: Madness. A confusing mistake to make.
Tactics: None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nowt
Two midfielders with all the pace of a dead slug, against an energetic and cohesive midfield three. Adam Matthews at left back. Just leave me alone, mate.
Tactics are defined as “an action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end”. Watching Sunderland AFC play on a weekly basis will change your concept of the word. There is no action carefully planned, and no specific end in sight. We're talking about a team formed by a group of execs that don't believe we need a striker. We're talking about a team of people like Gibson who will happily go on the lash and slate everyone he plays with, a team with players slagging each other off IN the dressing room.
We began this series on Grayson with nothing but hope and the benefit of the doubt. His lack of pedigree, and his already not-quite-spotless history in this division were the subject of great discussion, but most of us were able to curb our expectations by eating a nice big slice of humble pie. We were, after all, skint and in the Championship, with no positive change coming to the board room. “Maybe this is our level now?” was the general consensus, and so we ignored glaring questions in the hope that they would never need to be asked.
Well, without ever asking those questions, I think we've now got our answer. Grayson clearly has little to no control over the dressing room, and you have to wonder at this point who exactly is giving the orders? From the outside: the players rule the dressing room, the same one that's been dodgy as f**k for years now. There's a serious problem here somewhere and no one has the balls to come and say what it is.
Verdict: Not worth your money, not any day, of any week.
Substitutions: O'Shea 51', Gooch 56'
It seems the John O'Shea testimonial decade continues under the stewardship of yet another misguided manager. I should probably take this opportunity to point out that even Wes Brown has European titles to his name, so come on guys. I'll bet those Premier League Winner medals looks fantastic on the mantelpiece of a few million pounds worth of real estate, but it doesn't mean we should be paying for the whole sodding building. If you have believe told that John O'Shea is the man to shore up your defense in a losing game, I'd like to inform that you need someone to spend all of your money for you, and put myself forward for the role.
That said I can't fault the timing of the two substitutions made, it was exactly the time to change something on the pitch. Not that it did.
Verdict: Ineffective, unimaginative, but perhaps the only thing we can't blame Grayson entirely for. He's not the first man fooled by the Irishman's curriculum vitae.
When you lose a game and you concede five it is always going to be a disappointing night.
We didn’t stop the opposition from playing and that was the bottom line of it all. If you allow any team to play against you it is going to cause you problems and that was the thing tonight.
Yes, your opposition will indeed play against you. This statement in particular is concerning to me, because it implies that Simon Grayson expects our players to spend their time protecting possession of the ball and making an outright nuisance of themselves in order to prevent Ipswich 'playing'. Is this the thinking behind ignoring the glaring need for a striker: that our team is united and confident enough on and off the ball to dominate a game? Why!? What on Earth gave him that impression?
We had a go in the last 15-20 minutes because we started demanding it from each other, we started to win second balls and ask questions of the opposition. Before then though, we let the opposition play. At this level you have got to win your battles because you can’t just expect to go and play free flowing football when you think it is on to do it.
Every time the ball went into the box in the first-half it looked like we might concede. People didn’t stop crosses going in the box in the first place, you could say we were five yards off the pace.
It's at least a testament to the manager's sense of reality that he feels this way, even if everything said is obvious to the lowliest of bystanders. Again though we witness a distinct lack of intention to change, or at least the apparent lack of knowledge with which to do so. Simon Grayson sounded like he was running out of games five defeats ago – now he's just listing what physically happened on the pitch. We don't need a play-by-play highlight reel, we need a plan. I can't see or hear one.
Verdict: Redundant. The comments I mean, not Grayson...