Sixer’s Fulham Soapbox: Should’ve gone to Shields v Shildon

SAFCvFULHAM(FT)Malcolm Dawson writes……I couldn’t get to this game being otherwise occupied on the Fylde coast. Phew – got away with that one. Of course Pete Sixsmith gets to every home game and most away matches too but even his patience is being tested. The euphoria felt at Old Trafford and Sid James’ Park isn’t making up for the amount of dross and drivel he is being served up on a far too regular basis. Already he has taken the decision to cut down on the number of times he follows the Lads to away grounds and it sounds like he is not far from choosing to leave his seat at the Stadium of Light unoccupied. He’ll be back next week, as will I, but his commitment is being pushed to the limit. With many of the fancied teams now out of the competition the F.A. Cup offers us a realistic chance of silverware. Not, according to Pete, on yesterday’s performance. Here’s his somewhat downbeat assessment of the goings on on the banks of the River Wear yesterday.

Sunderland v Fulham FA Cup (H)

I could, and perhaps should, have driven off at 2.05 and headed for North Shields in order to watch Shildon put their Northern League challenge well and truly back on track with a 1-0 win against the then league leaders. Why 2.05? That was when Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett read the team out for this FA Cup Fourth Round game. First of all they said that McCormack and Rodellega were on the bench for Fulham, suggesting that the Cottagers were not over fussed about this game.

Jake so glad he couldn't get this game in Spain.
Jake so glad he couldn’t get this game in Spain.

Bennett suggested to Barnes that Giaccherini was almost certain to be part of a midfield three with Larsson and Rodwell and that hopefully the one time Italian international would be able to spark some creativity and create chances for new arrival Jermaine Defoe.
Then came the team news; no Giaccherini, no Alvarez but a three of Rodwell, Bridcutt and Larsson. There was a sharp intake of breath from Bennett – and from the driver’s seat of the trusty Mazda. “Where is the creativity going to come from,” said the pundit. “Should I head for North Shields,” said the fan.
Where's the creativity?
Where’s the creativity?

I made the wrong decision – which was several less than Gus Poyet made on a truly wretched afternoon, which did nothing to assuage the mood amongst the support that bothered to turn out -that we were sliding towards the bottom three and that the miracle of 2014 was unlikely to be repeated in 2015. The lack of tempo and pace at the start was frightening as we allowed a competent and well organised Fulham side to settle. The Dog and Duck could settle against us as we pass the ball sideways, backwards, anywhere but forwards, putting minimal pressure on whatever opponents we are facing.

To many of us it was patently clear that the ball was not going to reach Defoe or Fletcher quickly and that when it did eventually reach them, the Fulham defenders were ready and waiting. It also became apparent that a week on the training ground is not sufficient to bed the players into this new 3-5-2 formation. They argued with one other, asked what they were supposed to be doing and generally looked as if they had little idea of what was expected of them. Of course, it helps if you can actually pass the ball to one of your team mates and this basic requirement seemed to be beyond too many of them, particularly those charged with the responsibility of driving the team forward. Only Larsson of the midfield three looked comfortable in this set up, drawing on his huge reserves of energy to push Fulham back and win the ball. His two colleagues showed little inclination to match him.

Bridcutt was, to put it mildly, poor but one expects little from a player who is clearly suited to the Championship. It is Rodwell who seems to encapsulate the problems that Sunderland AFC have at the moment. Hailed as a good signing by many (including this scribe), his first six months at The Stadium of Light have been distinctly underwhelming, culminating in a performance where the team actually looked better once he had been sent off. He could have gone in the first half, because the challenge that earned him his first yellow was as close as you will see to being a red. It was made after he had lost the ball, leading to him losing his temper and going in with his foot off the ground on Staflyidis. He then committed two more fouls which drew a quiet word from referee Anthony Taylor, before he got himself a mandatory yellow for obstructing the goalkeeper. “Idiotic”, “stupid” and “does he ever actually think” are words that spring to mind.
He had every right to be frustrated as his performance had done nothing to justify the large fee that Manchester City took off us for his registration. He struggled to keep up with the pace of the game which, for a man who is supposed to be a “box to box” player, is just not good enough. He appears to be yet another player who has come to Sunderland to maintain his lifestyle and who, on what we have seen so far, will not be an asset to the club and will bail out should we be relegated at the end of the season – something which is looking likelier as the weeks pass by and we show no pace, tempo or the ability to fashion chances.

Support for Gus's methods is flagging
Support for Gus’s methods is flagging

The support is rapidly becoming disillusioned with the football being played. A single home win all season in the league does not inspire. Chelsea apart, the games have been dull and uninteresting and there seems to be an inexorable slide towards relegation. There is an old adage that players are more important than systems and that good players will fit to whatever the coaching staff wants them to do – as long as they buy into it. Look at our players – fractious, unsure of themselves and seemingly not convinced by what they are being asked to do. They know that we are going into a series of home games that will define our season and will either propel us to mid table safety and obscurity or dump us in the bottom three, possibly for the rest of the season.

Some flair and imagination are required for the Burnley game on Saturday. Johnson should return and hopefully Cattermole, whose drive and energy has been sorely missed. If Defoe is to flourish, he needs players who will get the ball to him quickly and take advantage of his ability to make his own space against defenders. Whether Fletcher, who mysteriously spent much of his hour on the field in a wide position, is the man to play alongside him, remains to be seen. As does the ability of Messrs Poyet, Tarrichio and Oatway to get our season moving. Burnley could well be their make or break game.

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12 thoughts on “Sixer’s Fulham Soapbox: Should’ve gone to Shields v Shildon”

  1. He is increasingly becoming Bruceish in his mutterings, which is a very worrying trait.

    His team selection and lack of a plan ‘B’ is Bruceish and equally worrying.

    The clock is ticking Gustavo, wind up the watch of your imagination and by and by success will strike!!!!!

  2. He’s limited by his own fear and lack of imagination, I fear. His constant references about “the fans wanting Quinn and Phillips back etc” is just adding to the impression that he’s out of touch. I don’t hear this kind of thing and I wonder where he gets it from.

    Bridcutt and Buckley ahead of Giacherrini and Alvarez. Only at Sunderland.

  3. What I find unfathomable is that, when Poyet correctly changed his tactics to play 2 up front to accommodate Defoe, he decided that only 3 were required in midfield. He will probably say that the full-backs are really wingers, so it’s 5 in midfield. But they’re not – because for the most part we are defending anyway, and at the end of the day they’re still full-backs. Add in Bridcutt, who is basically just another defender and you have 6 at the back! At home. Against Fulham.

    We’ve played much better teams than this with only the normal 4 at the back. Surely 4 is enough for games like this? You then can play 4 in midfield and give yourself a chance of creating chances!

    An Italian international and an Argentinian international (who, let’s remember, played for the finalists in last year’s World Cup!) can’t get a game in the poorest Sunderland performance of this and several other seasons? And when you want to create something different, you look to a championship winger who has already failed to produce all season?

    This is clueless management – or else he’s a genius and nobody else can see it. The results give the best indication of which of those is most likely to be correct.

  4. I don’t think he will, Rob (cut his boots). After driving from Essex and back on Saturday (and failing to catch up with Mr S due to a full bladder stopping me from waiting too long) – I am now seriously questioning Gus and his 1 dimensional tactics. I have already written on another Salut FB post, so won’t repeat myself – however, 2 statistics seem to sum up Poyet’s Sunderland:
    Stat 1 – in the first 3 minutes, we had so much possession that not one Fulham player touched the ball. Sounds good until Stat no.2
    Stat 2 – we barely got out of our half during that 3 mins. This set the tempo of the game – a game we would have won had we given it a go.
    An away side likes to silence the home crowd early on, the Home side managed that for them. We were so uninspiring that the crowd were too bored and disaffected to boo at half time.
    Fulham did not expect to win but gradually realised that we were not going to push them. They even gave us the ball back several times during a vaguely more ‘exciting’ second half (made marginally better thanks to Rodwell accepting that he should have gone earlier and making sure the ref did send him off eventually) and despite this generosity, we couldn’t even get a shot on target. Every one of Poyet’s buys were absolutely awful, average Championship players.
    Burnley have real spirit and should stuff us next week unless Gus has a massive culture change.

  5. To me Gus Poyet is still cutting his boots as a Premier League manager. I think he will get there. A few months ago, I thought anyone who employed Alan Pardew was crazy, but look what he was doing over the river, and what is happening at Palace, Pardew has changed to someone who actually does something (at times). I know he is a liabilty. My point is, Gus will improve, if we stay up. Big IF, looking at things at the moment but he will improve.

  6. The game was such a non event that a day later and I can barely remember a single thing that happened,apart from it was horrible . This 3-5-2 formation has actually succeeded in making a poor team worse , the players simply looked confused and the crowd are bewildered , what Poyet is thinking who knows , does he ? If Poyet and hes staff are given the boot soon at least we have Bally to step up again don’t we ? Doh !

  7. Like Sixer and Bennett, I assumed Giaccherini simply had to play this game, a player who is capable of giving Defoe the very pass he craves, into feet and in on goal; and against a championship team, to boot. I was unfortunate enough to be in the ground before I learned what the team actually was. Incredulous doesn’t quite cover my mental state on seeing bridcutt lining up.
    A formation with target men and no pace for most of the season, during which we try to play through the middle; get a small, quick striker and we start to sling the ball in from wide positions. Eh?
    This formation can only work if the middle defender has a range of passing to start attacks and bring the ball out into midfield, and your wing backs don’t have natural defensive mentalities. Guess what we have. Dire!

  8. ‘a truly wretched afternoon’ – sums it up perfectly.

    During my decades of supporting Sunderland I’ve seen some dreadful games, but this one was of the most boring, uninspiring, lacklustre performances seen for many a year.
    Poyet is entering the same zone in supporters’ eyes as Bruce and O’Neil, so beware, Gustavo.

    This feckless show of creativity, and passing generally, made Fulham look like a top PL team. Unless someone creates opportunities for Defoe, he too will fail – what a shame, a classy finisher if ever there was one.

    I have a great seat opposite the tunnel and am reluctant to leave, but have definitely decided that if relegation occurs, that’s it for me. Poor performances, ridiculous kick-off times, and you can’t even get parked anywhere near the stadium now.

    So it’ll be the Northern League for me too.

  9. Spot on piece.
    Poyet is too defensive minded. When a player does show some energy and intent and tries to counter attack quickly (eg:Larsson) , he looks around and finds his teammates sauntering out of the 18 yard box.
    This is Poyets defensive mindset. It might mean a clean sheet quite often, but invariably means no goals either.

    • What is going on here!!!!! For gods sake play football as its supposed to be played,kick out all this defensive crap,get the midfield to do their jobs,up & down,up & down,get out of our box quicker and support the forwards,create chances and do it for 90 minutes,score some goals,even teams in the northern league play football better than Sunderland.These players get payed more than you or I do in a lifetime.So! get your fingers out of your assholes and play some decent football.As for Poyet,I used to like him but I dont think he has any idea how to manage a premier league team what he thinks are good players are not what I think they are,too many championship players and lower! Fire his sorry ass. I’m sorry to say but this is the year for the big drop,then we really will be up shit creek,because more than half of these players will just desert the fast sinking ship???? God! I have had enough of watching this team,my faith has gone,,RIP me!

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