Return of the Mac
Aiden McGeady returned to the starting line-up, as was largely expected. Chris Coleman abandoned his usual formation and switched to a back four to accommodate the Republic of Ireland international, but was it worth it?
Not really. It’s fair to say his impact was not as great as last weekend. For many observers, McGeady was largely a passenger, an observer and brought very little to the party.
As a senior member of this side, McGeady has to work harder. Coleman sprang a surprise - a tactical decision, according to The Chronicle’s James Hunter - by dropping Ovideo and putting Jake Clarke-Salter at left back. To ask a young centre-half to play out of position, he has to have the support of the midfielder ahead of him. McGeady offered no such protection. Adam Matthews was duly asked to play left-back for the second half.
Critics will argue McGeady is in the side for his offensive and creative skills and not for his tracking back. But even then, his impact was limited. A 25-yard effort after 23 minutes was easily saved by the Brentford keeper before a decent chance at the start of the second half was sent wide from eight yards. Throw in a couple of crosses and that was McGeady’s contribution. Oh, and a booking on 74 minutes.
Has Aiden McGeady shown himself to be a luxury we can’t afford, or perhaps simply an impact player? Compare his performance with that of young Joel Asoro and the difference is marked.
Where does Coleman go next?
Having changed his formation and tactics on the back of last week’s fightback, Coleman was clearly left annoyed by today’s match.
Too often, Sunderland failed in even the simplest things like clearing the danger when in possession of the football, passing to a teammate, or closing down the opposition. Formations won’t help if we can’t do the basics right. And we can’t.
In his post-match comments Chris Coleman said he was disappointed and alarmed by the performance. He suggested that the players simply aren’t performing in the manner that they have trained for the previous five days:
The thing that bothers me, if I’m honest, is we train Monday to Friday and we train well. We train a certain way and play a certain way, and then, well the bell rings, we play a slightly different way. So that’s what really bothers me. And that’s what I get annoyed with.
Showing clear frustration and hiding a degree of anger, Coleman went on to say:
The thing for me is that we have shown that when we really want to, we can - we just don’t want to enough, enough times. There’s just an acceptance of negativity and defeat and ‘here we go again’, and that’s something I do find tough.
Where does he go next? What does he do on Tuesday, in what is simply a must-win game?
Given that Barnsley and Hull didn’t have a league fixture this weekend and Birmingham and Bolton both lost, the status quo has been maintained. Three points from safety. Four if you account for a horrendous goal difference.
Failure to win at Bolton will make the difficult nigh-on impossible. Even then, Sunderland have to do something we’ve struggled with and pick up back-to-back points when we entertain Boro next Saturday.
Nothing less will do if we are to avoid relegation.
Bain gets pelters
Towards the end of the game a fan from the executive seats approached the directors’ box to confront chief executive Martin Bain. Fans close by report hearing the words “are you happy?”
After the game, Coleman commented on the incident:
They will go for Martin because Martin is the guy who is here. He is the one left holding the baby, if you like. That’s where they will vent their frustrations. But Martin is a big boy, he knows how it goes, he will be OK.
Was it a fair question? Is Bain simply being targeted as he was present, unlike our forever-absent owner, Mr Short?
I have seen some comments suggesting our CEO is a somewhat unfortunate figure, vilified for simply carrying out orders and, therefore, absolved of blame. Ellis Short is the one who is ruining our club and, for these people, is doing so single-handedly.
There are others who see Bain as fully complicit in the destruction of our great club. Under his watch, Sunderland have been relegated from the Premier League and - let’s face it - are about to be relegated in successive seasons, this time to League One.
Bain has overseen the departure of many ‘star’ players - Pickford, Mannone, Defoe, Borini, Lens, Khazri, Ndong, Djilobodji (well, he did cost £8m) - and has given two managers barely tuppence to build a squad capable of competing at this level.
I can hear the dissenters saying that’s Short’s call, but, I’d argue, Short wants Bain to make the club saleable. Is he following this remit by standing idly by as the club slips into League One whilst not protecting the owner’s interests? Those defending Short - and there remain a few, honestly - say he’s been badly advised. Is Bain not doing the same by selling any and all assets and failing to make the squad fit-for-purpose?