Sunderland at their best?
One of the key discussion points amongst myself and friends after the game yesterday was around whether or not that was Sunderland giving it their best effort.
Granted, there were some genuinely terrible individual performances in there, but I couldn’t help but feel that the players were genuinely trying their best for the most part - and whilst you can’t really grumble if that is the case, it’s concerning that we were so poor defensively when that was us at our best.
The game was absolutely mental and it’d be hard to judge the way that it went properly. When both sides are down to ten men it throws the game-plans of each team right out of the window, and that descent into the unknown brought out the best in some of our players.
Irregardless, the fact we managed to sneak a draw after tossing away a perfectly good lead leaves me with mixed feelings on the performance. But - it gives us a tiny glimmer of hope that we now go into next week’s game at Millwall with our Championship status still hanging in the balance. It aint over ‘til it’s over.
Asoro continues to strive
Joel Asoro was yet again Sunderland’s star man.
Having poked home the opening goal of the game, the Sweden U21 international was a constant threat all afternoon and experienced campaigners like George Friend and Ben Gibson weren’t entirely sure what to do with him.
If there’s one man that has improved significantly since Coleman arrived it is Asoro. He’s been told to just get his head down and commit defenders to tackles, and you have to say that it’s a simple yet successful game-plan.
I was a big critic of Asoro earlier in the season having seen him underwhelm on a number of occasions for the U23s, but I hold my hands up - he’s proving me and many others wrong, and since coming into the team since the turn of the year has comfortably been our most impressive player.
Keep it up, Joel!
It would be fair to say that, since arriving, Lee Camp hasn’t shown himself to be the the calming, experienced pair of hands that he was brought in to be.
He was hesitant when committing the foul for the penalty he gave away, and even despite the fact Lee Cattermole told him which way to dive he went the complete opposite way and Leadbitter scored. Then, for Bamford’s second, he was slow and cumbersome and conceded again - the ELEVENTH goal to go past him in five games.
You can excuse the odd bad performance but he’s costing us silly goals every week. He doesn’t look confident and I’m genuinely not sure he’s any better than Jason Steele, who is comfortably the poorest goalkeeper I’ve seen play for Sunderland.
He needs a strong performance down at Millwall in order to hold his place in the side. I know he’s Coleman’s man and he’ll have faith in him, but is he really a better option than, say, Max Stryjek?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you have all the experience in the world - it counts for absolutely nothing if you keep making rookie errors.
Back amongst the goals
Perhaps the main positive we can take from the performance was the fact we managed to get three goals at the Stadium of Light for only the second time this season, against a side coached by Tony Pulis - a man famed for his solid defensive approach.
It remains to be seen whether it was a case of Coleman taking the shackles off and allowing his players to get at their opponents more, or whether it was just because the game was fairly open due to the two red cards - I guess how we play at Millwall will determine that.
Either way, we can take confidence from being so prolific in front of goal against Boro. We’ve struggled to score since Lewis Grabban left and its about him that some of the others started chipping in.
McManaman pushing for a start
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t end this piece by giving some kudos to Callum McManaman, whose late leveller completely changes the way we all now think and feel coming away from this game.
I thought he was brilliant when he came on against Bolton and then he changed the game when he came on yesterday. He took his goal well, and had it not been for a fine save from Darren Randolph he might have had another just beforehand.
Granted, he’s been largely awful since arriving here, but McManaman is pushing for a start next weekend now and I think that Chris Coleman has to give him a shot, particularly since the absence of Kazenga LuaLua means we have little in the way of options that bring energy and craft playing off the front.