Same old stupid mistakes
One thing that the performances against Leeds and Norwich have proved in recent days is that is doesn’t really matter if we attack with intent, as we’re still all over the place defensively and on set pieces.
Every single week we neglect to do even basic things, and you can’t help but shake your head and wonder what on Earth we’ve been doing on the training ground to even attempt to remedy it.
Lazy marking is one thing, but losing concentration and confidence as soon as the opposition get a set piece around our box is something else entirely.
I have no doubt that, organisationally, losing John O’Shea probably threw us all to pot at the back and it certainly seemed as though Norwich had done their homework on us.
If we had been even semi-competent at defending set pieces this season we’d have been nowhere near the relegation zone, and that is incredibly frustrating.
Signs of promise
It wasn’t all bad, though. Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman and Donald Love all had good games and showed again why they might be incredibly useful to us next season.
I gave Donald Love my man of the match in the report after the game, largely due to the fact he was so solid defensively. Love knows his limitations and doesn’t try to over-step the mark, and it’s nice to just see a Sunderland player concentrate on tackling and getting rid of danger when it presents itself.
Lynden Gooch gave James Husband an absolutely torrid time in the first half, so much so that the Norwich left back was taken off at half time having also picked up a booking for fouling the young American. His performances have been really great to watch in recent weeks, and after being given a run in the side in his favoured position he’s most definately thrived.
Honeyman was asked to play a more reserved central midfield role last night and did very well in doing so. He’s not particularly suited to sitting in and dictating proceedings from deep but I thought that the openness of the game suited George perfectly, and he was able to roam and link up play all over the park without having to worry too much about us getting overran in the centre. He did of course score again, his seventh of the season, which is a fairly impressive haul for someone in their maiden campaign as a first-teamer.
Coleman’s subs... again
It was a mixed bag from the manager this time around in terms of substitutions, and whilst it was nice to see him react responsively to the flow of the game it was interesting that Joel Asoro was once again left unused on the bench.
Whether Adam Matthews was removed for tactical or injury reasons I’m not sure, but the addition of Bryan Oviedo allowed us to fully expose Norwich’s right hand side in the second period, and it undoubtedly brought out the best in Aiden McGeady, who was magnificent in the latter forty-five minutes of the game.
Again, I’m not sure on the reasons why John O’Shea came off but it’s fair to say that, as I alluded to earlier, it definitely affected us from an organisational standpoint. It doesn’t matter who it is - removing a central defender is unsettling, and Jake Clarke-Salter just isn’t a calming presence in our defence. The impact of change, in my opinion, was that Norwich gained a little confidence going forward and it might have played a part in why we were all over the place for the set piece that led to their goal.
Kazenga LuaLua’s introduction, in my opinion, came too late. I felt that at 1-0 up we looked steady and having witnessed the nature of the game we probably needed to try and kill Norwich off with a second.
Bringing LuaLua on earlier would have given them something extra to think about and would have certainly pushed Norwich back ten yards, which in turn would have benefited us immensely.
But, hey ho. Hindsight is wonderful and on this occasion things didn’t really go our way.