Rank average goalkeepers
Sunderland haven’t put a foot right with goalkeepers since we sold Simon Mignolet. Barring the extraordinary talent of Jordan Pickford (which we apparently cashed in on, though to look at the squad investment you wouldn’t believe it) we have gone from one poor decision to another between the sticks.
Sure, some of them had some brilliant times for us. Costel Pantilimon might have gotten down like a giant Redwood being felled, Vito Mannone may have conceded 16 goals in three games, but they had their moments and at least both had some presence in their box.
Lee Camp is about 5ft tall and looks like Joey Barton with lank hair. While his defenders were appalling for all three goals he had direct control over whether two of them went in. Alongside his defence and the referee, Lee Camp is about as culpable as it gets for that collapse against Sheffield Wednesday and, by proxy, our Championship demise.
Another useless Referee
The game was officiated by - wait! It was officiated!? Nah, I don’t believe you.
Stevie Wonder would have given that penalty because it was such a stonewall decision that it could be detected by olfactory sense alone. One doesn’t even need two brain cells to comprehend that that it was a penalty - a singular, lonely brain cell would have been enough to develop an educated opinion and make a serious decision. By this logic Simon Hooper doesn’t have a single bastard brain cell in his thick, bald head, and along with that torrid back line of ours is responsible for inevitable relegation.
Maybe that last one is a bit much. But he’s certainly responsible for taking us completely out of the game when if he’d actually done his job properly, anything could happen. The FA really need to step up their game when disciplining referees, because they don’t treat it as a lack of discipline but rather as human error. As far as I’m concerned if you’re paid to do a job you do it properly or you get demoted, and if you get demoted more than once you get the sack because you’re obviously either not very good at your job or are deliberately sabotaging your own work.
Mind you if Hooper was busted down to League One we’d have him there as well so it’s probably in our best interests that they keep the partially-sighted officials in the upper tiers.
When Bryan Oviedo was brought off for Adam Matthews in the last 30 minutes I commended Chris Coleman. Simon Grayson wouldn’t have been prepared to replace that player, let alone recognise the need to do so or actually make the change. For me, this (basic) ability demonstrated throughout the season is one of the key indicators of Coleman’s superiority as a manager by comparison to ol’ Simon.
However. It could be argued that Coleman’s reticence to make too big a change to the team that had so excited the fans just two days before was pivotal in our downfall on Monday.
I understand the reluctance, but I can’t condone it. The fact is that when we had gone behind a second time it was obvious that our attacking threat was tiring, and we were losing cohesion visibly. I think many of us would have seen the introduction of Joel Asoro early in the second half as a tactically sound decision to make as opposed to persisting with the mercurial Ashley Fletcher, who simply shouldn’t have been expected to lead that line for a full 90 minutes as a lone striker, in my opinion.
That being said: it could also be argued that we kept some attacking impetus throughout the second half, and the efforts from the midfield were, I think, exemplary when taken in the right context. McNair, Honeyman and Gooch all played well and I take heart every time I see these young lads grafting for the shirt. We have to be able to judge performances objectively because we’re rarely treated to a performance from the whole team, or even a result. Mistakes will always be made but you can’t disguise a fighting spirit.
Lack of physicality killing us
Our lack of physical prowess has been so telling in this league. We all know “the championship is physical” by comparison to the Premier League, but I don’t think we could have been less prepared to deal with that physicality than we are.
Lamine Kone and Paddy McNair – these two players have some stature about them, but one has been sulking for most of the season and the other has been largely laid up on the treatment table. When you’re dealing with physicality week in, week out you need to have fullbacks made of steel, not fibre glass. Same goes for our midfield – though Gooch is deceptively powerful for his size, the likes of George Honeyman, Callum McManaman, Ovie Ejaria and Aiden McGeady rely on their footwork to get them out of difficult situations. This is fine to some extent because obviously every team needs a healthy balance between weight and speed, but ours has been tipped in the balance of one more than the other for too long now, and it has shown.
It is all too common a common sight now to see a Sunderland played spilled to the deck by a tame shoulder-charge from players that wouldn’t have gotten a look-in in the Premier League when those same players on the deck were doing a job at that level for years. It’s not like we’ve got money to buy any players like, but if we did I’d make sure they were good in the air because we just don’t currently have anyone like that.
If the Championship is anything to go by things are going to get messy in League One, and we’re going to need some tough hombres to take that punishment. That has to be priority in the transfer window - with all of our 10p.
Result hard to take
I’m not sure what’s worse - winning dramatically against a promotion-chasing side in front of 1900 away fans only to to lose dramatically against a mediocre side in front of 30,000 at home, or never having won either game in the first place. It feels like Sunderland could have done us all a favour by maintaining their lack of urgency and killer-instinct last Friday, because seeing us collapse at home just two days later is all the more gut-wrenching as a result, there’s no doubt about that.
How many tickets were bought off the back of Friday’s result? How many hearts and minds allowed to sway back towards the quickly vanishing idea that there might be hope yet, so long as the players could knuckle down and fight, and gather momentum? I suppose in a way we should be grateful that they pulled the trigger on us so soon after hope had been allowed to grow again, so that it didn’t grow out of control and consume us all.