Joe joins the party
Call me harsh, but 400 minutes into Joe Gelhardt’s Sunderland career and having not seen anything of him before his deadline day move to Wearside - I was struggling to see what the fuss was about or what he was contributing to now.
Now I fully accept he is a young lad in a new team but for someone who arrived at the Stadium of Light having been in and around a Leeds United senior squad for over a season, and coming with over 900 minutes of Premier League experience, I expected a bit more of an impact.
Then just as I’m asking myself the question he got himself on the end of O’Nien’s cross, albeit from an offside position, and I was praying that whilst a disallowed goal, it would be something to act as a catalyst for him.
Then just a few moments later, from almost the same position he gets off the mark in a Sunderland shirt with a header made simple thanks to the quality of both his run and the ball in.
It went a little way to soften my criticism, but there needs to be a lot more from Joffy - hopefully that was a sign of things to come for the remainder of the season.
He’s undoubtedly been one of our best players this season, but having already played more first team minutes this campaign than he received in any other season, there are signs that Diallo is getting a little jaded.
For two games now Amad has looked a little off the pace. Whilst still positive in his play, the flicks, the one-twos and the skills to beat a defender are just missing that sharpness that has so quickly endeared him to us fans.
Whether its passing, running in behind, or faced up with a defender, he is losing the ball an awful lot more than he was before the two FA Cup games. There is a good chance the Saturday / Wednesday / Saturday / Tuesday / Saturday / Tuesday schedule this month has taken it’s toll, but having been so influential for us to now he has become almost un-droppable.
Therein lies the dilemma... Which is the lesser of two evils - resting him and making the team weaker, or persevering with a 75% Amad?
The importance of Patrick
This time last year I wrote an article highlighting the importance of Patrick Roberts to our season. I stated my belief that whilst he couldn’t do it by himself, the success of our season would be closely linked with how much time Roberts spent on the pitch.
I could copy, paste and repost that piece today and it would still be 100% accurate. He was given the rest that Diallo probably needed, but just when Sunderland were looking tired it was Roberts who injected the pace and enthusiasm into our attack. Everything that was good from the lads in that last 30+ minutes almost exclusively came from him.
Tony Mowbray knows a lot about the quality of the Championship, so when he makes as bold a statement as “If there is a better player in this division than Patrick Roberts, I haven’t seen him” it’s certain to draw attention. The gaffer has certainly been vindicated as despite the disappointing result, his performance was fantastic.
He’s the second tier’s Arjen Robben, and he has to play as many minutes as possible!
Too many minutes taking its toll
Six games in three weeks certainly seems to have taken its toll on many of the Lads. The temporary lack of depth (due to injury or getting new arrivals “up-to-speed”) has meant many of the players will have played over 500 minutes of football in the last three weeks.
It’s something that has visibly and very notably blunted the pace and potency of our attack in the last two games. Inevitably when you can’t attack as much you spend more time defending, and our defensive unit is not immune from burnout - as it showed.
Rotherham’s second goal was testament to that. Dan Neil gives the ball away in a potentially dangerous position and whilst he does what he can to delay the counter, nobody has the energy to get around him and help out. Then, when Rotherham break away there is only one player able to muster up enough energy to chase back and defend the chance. That player being Luke O’Nien - who coincidentally (or not) was the one player who was able to rest and recover while serving suspension.
The Millers almost had a third in almost the exact same situation. On that occasion the post came to our rescue, but it was again O’Nien sprinting back to challenge.
These two incidents were the epitome of the Sunderland performance last night. I don’t know what the solution is short-term (you can’t rotate the whole team to recover) when there is an early kick-off against Coventry to prepare for. All we can hope for is that we get through that game, then have a whole week to rest and prepare for Alex Neil’s Stoke.
Injury Time Excitement
Discuss... I’m still recovering after 7 minutes of carnage!