Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: Arsenal take advantage of Black Cats’ ill luck

Malcolm Dawson writes……..Peter Sixsmith is a frequent visitor to the National Stadium at Wembley. Usually it’s to watch a Rugby League game or a Northern League side in the FA Vase final. Once every twenty years or so he even gets to see Sunderland there. This season he dreams of another trip to see his home town side of Shildon achieve FA Cup glory and so Saturday saw him journey to the former Staffordshire coalfield, home of Norton United where the Railwaymen sought the victory that would see them go into the proverbial hat with the big boys of the Football League.

Look out for them in the first round proper draw (number 52) as the one all result sees them as the lowest ranked club still in the competition. Stand by for Pete’s report on his day away from the Stadium of Light. In his absence you’ll have to make do with my version of events there.

The Match with MDwithGus

Years ago I remember reading an article in some long gone football magazine in which Bryan “Pop” Robson explained how he took ballet lessons to improve his footwork and ball control skills. Based on the evidence of yesterday it’s time that Wes Brown and Vito Mannone donned their tutus and practised their entrechats and pliés in front of a long mirror.

I didn’t go to Southampton last weekend. Instead I was stuck in a traffic jam trying to get from the A1 to the International Stadium on my way to see Gateshead lose to Barnet. By the time I’d got parked up, Radio Newcastle had told me all about Vergini’s wonderstrike and Barnet’s two early goals. Those of you who thought that sitting at St Mary’s was a miserable experience at least didn’t have to put up with the crowing of obnoxious Magpies every time a goal went in on the South coast, whilst watching a disappointing Gateshead side succumb to a two goal defeat, both of which you had already missed.

So I maybe didn’t get as disheartened as many others by last week’s mauling. I told anyone who would listen that every team has a blip from time to time, we were still unbeaten at home, generally looked better than I have seen us for a while and could bounce back against an Arsenal side who are not the force they once were.

How things change in seven days! All those doubts and fears that I had consigned to the inner recesses of my mind have now burst through to occupy my waking thoughts. A threadbare squad. A lack of defensive cover. A shortage of proven goalscorers. An inability to create meaningful chances. A strategy of sitting too deep and allowing teams to attack us. A fragility that leaves us open to a quick counter attack. Players who are prone to individual errors.

And today the Independent carries a report that all is not well at SAFC. It claims there is friction between Poyet on the one hand and Ellis Short/Margaret Byrne on the other. Poyet it is claimed is not happy with his squad. Is not happy with the club’s purchasing strategy. Feels the “continental” set up with a Director of Football ties his hands when it comes to competing on the pitch. The article suggests that Byrne has problems with the manager and that Short himself feels Gus’s thinly veiled criticism of the club can’t go on much longer.

I’m a fan. I want to see my team winning and my sympathies lie with Gus. But in the real world of football these days financial stability is not something to be taken lightly. Ask the followers of Portsmouth, Leeds United etc. about that. Two individual errors cost us yesterday. Does the blame for that lie on or off the pitch?

Malcolm Dawson climbs aboard the Soapbox
Malcolm Dawson climbs aboard the Soapbox

The Sunderland fans were determined to back their team and there was encouraging applause for certain individuals as the starting XI was read out. Two changes saw Rodwell and Johnson in with Gomez and Wickham dropping to the bench. This allowed Buckley to start on the left of a five man midfield. Despite the fact we hardly touched the ball for the first fifteen minutes I was relatively happy with what I saw. Although we were a little too deep for my liking the shape of the team looked good, with the back four solid and the midfield in front of them leaving Arsenal with plenty of possession but little in the way of a goal threat. Welbeck’s shot from 20 yards was always going over and Vito had it covered anyway.

That was on the quarter hour mark and having weathered the opening 15 minutes we started to get into the game. We were much more positive and playing higher up the pitch, though like the Gunners never really looked like getting the ball in the net. Johnson was showing some quality ball skills, Larsson did what Larsson does, Cattermole was industrious, breaking down play and distributing the ball well and van Aanholt was marauding down the left.

Although at one point Mannone fumbled an Oxlade Chamberlain cross that he should have dealt with easily, I was satisfied with the first half hour’s showing. And then came Wes Brown who showed us why, after his appearance on “Who Does the Dishes” he is unlikely to be asked to grace the screens of “Strictly” viewers.

With the team pressing forward, Wes on the half way line was last man in front of Mannone. Under no pressure and with PVA in plenty of space to his left, instead of a simple sideways pass to the Dutchman he elected to try and turn to send the ball 35 yards or more to the Italian keeper. I have seen better co-ordination from a four year old prancing about to some tinkling piano music on BBC School’s “Time to Move” and I have seen more power on a back pass from a Subbuteo player, than our former England international showed yesterday. A gaffe to eclipse those of the previous week.

Mind you I saw the same player stand on the ball and concede a goal to Unibond North side Darlington 1883 in the pre season friendly so it was hardly a unique experience. But once Alexis Sanchez had seized on the error and chipped the advancing Vito to score Arsenal’s 1499th Premier League goal the writing was on the wall.

On the positive side, our second half performance was encouraging in parts. Despite losing the hard working Fletcher early on we continued to press forward without ever really coming close to finding an equaliser. Rodwell had a shot from a tight angle and a header that was easily saved. Larsson had a long range effort which threatened the goal but never looked like beating the keeper.

For their part Arsenal were profligate when they had chances. Cazola in particular squandered a couple of good opportunities to put the game out of reach. But the turning point for me came when Szczesny committed his own blunder and we failed to take advantage. The big Pole came out to the angle of his box and when his weak header only found Patrick van Aanholt an open goal cried out for a simple lob into the net. But PVA, who otherwise had a pretty good game, lacked the necessary composure and his left foot effort went six or seven yards wide. One all at that point might have seen a change of fortune. Then again it might not have.

No such luck for our hapless keeper. When a back pass from Buckley put him under a bit of pressure he showed Wes Brown that he wasn’t the only one whose footwork was more like that of a pantomime horse than that of Wayne Sleep or Darcey Bussell. It should have been dealt with but somehow Vito managed to kick the ball with what was meant to be his standing foot and once again Alexis Sanchez patted the four leaf clover in his pocket, kissed the rabbit’s foot around his neck and was glad he picked up the penny he saw as he stepped off the team bus.

And so another disappointing day in the life of a Sunderland supporter. It’s not like we are not used to them. Poyet will no doubt be thinking that he needs a bigger and better squad. Margaret Byrne and Ellis Short will no doubt be thinking that Poyet should be doing better with the resources at his disposal. My sympathies lie with both. We do need more quality but just how many goals have we conceded because the Poyet approach has led to individual errors whilst attempting to maintain possession in a dangerous area? Sometimes a hoof upfield is an uglier but more effective option.

Pete’s texts kept me updated on the Shildon situation. He would have been more satisfied with his choice of game than last week and a lot less frustrated than I felt at 5 o’clock yesterday.

Jake invites support
Jake invites support


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9 thoughts on “Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: Arsenal take advantage of Black Cats’ ill luck”

  1. The penultimate sentence was intended as “lack of common sense, when it came to signing the likes of N’Diaye and Graham.”

  2. Tom said “To date there have been more questionable buys under Poyet than outstanding, exciting ones.”

    Understatement of the century. Scocco (yes he was here), Alonso, (didn’t stay long either and was never ours), Vergini and Bridcutt all arrived in the Jan window, when we were desperately in need of a striker because we only had Altidore, Fletcher, Wickham and Graham; Oh! and Borini.

    This lot weren’t enough in January when we were struggling, and in the bottom 3. Get the picture anybody?

    Summer acquisitions. Rodwell. Arrived for 10m and claimed that he was going to resurrect his international career. Mmmnn. Jones; (permanently injured). Alvarez (see Jones), Coates (see both Jones and Alvarez). Buckley (no comment necessary). Van Aanholt (so far something of an enigma).

    Bardsley and Colback left under freedom of contract even though the manager wanted them to stay, as did Gardner, Westwood (who is a better GK IMHO then either of the current two).

    It would be easy to blame the manager for part of this scenario, particularly when the likes of Bridcutt and Buckley were already associated with him, but the relentless and utterly futile pursuit of Borini over the summer now counts against him as it prevented us from signing other players who would have come to Sunderland.

    There’s unquestionably a penny pinching going on at board room level as the signings of Pantilimon, Gomez (to add to the list above), and now Reveilliere suggest that Ellis Short has decided that enough is enough. We’ve spent a fortune on poor players so we might as well bring poor players in on free transfers. Having trusted his previous appointees with a king’s ransom to build a team/squad; a process which has failed, he now expects Poyet to do it for far less.

    That may seem to have no logic, but it’s what seems to have been going on.

    GP has been left short in some departments, (certainly defensively), and that is part of the problem when we are signing stop gaps, such as Celustka on loan, last summer. Celustka may have been limited and not selected but at least he arrived fit and stayed fit. Jones has a terrible injury record and this is what we have been reduced to because of budgets.

    It’s part of the same mentality which saw O’Neill get into trouble by spending big money on Johnson and Fletcher and then scrambling around for the aged and the lame in the shape of McFadden and Saha. Restricted by budget, and also common sense when it came to signing the likes of N’Diaye and Graham, but the point is clear.

    This is the story of SAFC. Changing and changeless, like canal water.

  3. If the stench of relegation exists at all after 9 games, it angs around everyone in the bottom 10-12 positions. If we’ve learned anything over the years it’s that the fixture list can be distorted in a small part of the season. Look at our home games so far…..only one bottom 10 team…Stoke….who we beat. The rest all top 10 sides…only one loss.

    So let’s not clasp the asp to our bosom just yet

    That said……could do with a win at Palace….with our new Right Back proving a marvellous addition

  4. Not entirely sure I agree with the idea that this is a team Poyet ‘s had foisted on him. Didn’t he say a few weeks ago that he felt this was now ‘his squad’? 2 defeats later and he’s suddenly claiming it’s not his fault. Unedifying, to say the least. 2 of his defensive signings were known to be injury prone, they’re injured; bridcutt can’t get in the team and Buckley looks lost most of the time; whickham’s moved to the left in favour of fletcher or Altidore?! Gomez has decent left foot but is miles off the pace, and so on…
    Worried? Yep.

    • Of course it’s Poyets team . He mightn’t have had the budget he wished to work with , far from it .Though does he really expect us to believe that Congerton independently chose both Bridcutt and Buckley who just happen to be two of Poyets former players at Brighton ? Two who he’s raved about in the past by the way , he’s starting to stretch credibility with these excuses I’m afraid .

  5. If ‘Pop’ Robson took ballet lessons to improve footwork and ball control ,it looks like Brown and Mannone took moshing lessons

  6. Only nine games in, and already the stench of relegation clings to this sorry lot.

    Who’s to blame? As the old saying goes, the fish stinks from the head. A lot of responsibility for this unraveling disaster must be placed at the door of Short and Byrnes. The product they put on the pitch each Saturday is, let’s face it, poor to say the least: a motley collection of both geriatric and found-out defenders, plus a midfield composed of championship caliber ham-and-eggers plus a couple of might-have- beens, now content with a fat pay packet substituting for ambition. Up front, our strikers range from mediocre to pathetic. Not that this matters much, as they rarely see the ball.

    Poyet’s possession football seems increasingly pointless when sideways and back seems to be the only two directions it leads. Perhaps the cast of characters he has had foisted upon him allows him no other option, but the plan is no longer working.

    I’m dog tired of hoping, season after season, that there will be 3 teams somehow worse than us, to save our bacon. And already I have the feeling that we’ve used up our quota of ‘miracle finishes’ to avoid the drop.

    Late October may be way too early to be talking of the dreaded ‘R’ word, but let’s not be myopic to the more than obvious writing on the wall. And somehow I don’t think changing managers is the answer to our woes. I think the problem lies higher up the chain of command.

  7. “Sometimes a hoof upfield is an uglier but more effective option”
    Which is exactly what Mertersacker did for the first goal. It’s all about making the right choices and at present we seem incapable of doing that. I buy into Poyets philosophy that we need an identity as a club and that we play in a certain style, but we also need to adapt & overcome whatever we are faced with on that pitch or else we become predictable & that is I’m afraid what we are. Will I still be a Sunderland supporter tomorrow? Of course I will, & always will be. I’m no different to an alcoholic or junkie in that sense.

    That’s it ramble over.

  8. Poyet. What next? Like most Sunderland supporters I want stability and for my club to thrive under an ambitious, forward thinking, professional regime.
    But is Gus Poyet the man to take the club to where we realistically want to be-top half of the table, cabable of giving any side a good game allied to an occasionally exciting foray in the domestic cup competitions and maybe the Europa league.
    I felt for Gus yesterday. The best manager in the world cannot be blamed for the pathetic schoolboy errors that cost us dearly yesterday, a week after the comedy of errors at Southampton. You had to feel for him.
    However, I am perturbed at this increasingly reported disharmony that allegedly exists between Poyet and Chairman Short, Director of Football Congerton and Chief Executive Byrne. I believe it should be clarified in the public arena via an SAFC press release to say that all are pulling in the same direction. If this is not the case, how can we expect positive, harmonious progress?
    Certainly Poyet often goes on the defensive when results go wrong and will only ever accept a proportion of the blame. Think Spurs away last season. Think “Theres something profoundly wrong at this football club” last season. Think “I will accept responsibility for tactical decisions but not for the strength of the squad” post Southampton.
    It seems messy doesn’t it? Gus has reportedly said he has the final say on all transfers. If so I worry about the Premiership calibre of Buckley, Bridcutt, Gomez and the Latin Nosworthy aka Santiago Vergini. And then there was the hapless/hopeless (you choose) Scocco who arrived and flopped in the blink of an eye.
    Ironically some of last seasons most influential players who helped keep us up were signed under the auspices of Di Canio -Ki, Mannone and Borini.
    To date there have been more questionable buys under Poyet than outstanding, exciting ones.
    And the style of football itself? Possession football is all well and good if you have the technical players to carry it off but I would seriously question the entertainment value of Poyet’s brand and, more pertinently, it doesn’t win us many games does it? We could tolerate a lot if we won games in a dour style as it would be a means to an end.
    I’m sorry to say, however, I’m bored stiff watching Sunderland a lot if the time. The amount of times we go backwards when we could go forwards, the lack of goalmouth incident, the paucity of shots on target and general dour play-even against QPR and Burnley we failed to score and got one sad point from six available.
    Yet yesterday, in spite of everything, we attracted nigh on 45,000 spectators. No club in works football could hope for that type of attendance, having won one trophy since 1937 and playing football that can only benefit insomniacs.
    Is Gus the man to take us forward? Discuss.

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