Sixer’s Liverpool Soapbox: when sorrows come they come not single spies

Jake: 'when your secret weapon is Danny Graham you know you're in trouble'
Jake: ‘Pete promises to reflect on the positives and negatives. Spot the positives!’
Malcolm Dawson writes…..Sunderland have won fewer games than any other team in the Premier League. Even QPR who haven’t mustered a single point away from home have won two more games than SAFC and no prizes for guessing who their first victim was. Even Burton Albion beat them before they tasted victory against us. The view of many at the start of the season was that with a whole host of winnable home games after Hogmany, if we weren’t in the bottom three at Christmas then a mid table position would be well within our grasp. Well those regular attenders at the Stadium of Light are revising their opinions. One home league win so far this season and only three in the whole of 2014 doesn’t auger well when all the relegation candidates are still to visit us. Most of us thought we would get three points against a poor Hull City side and look how that turned out. As usual Peter Sixsmith turned up yesterday and once again he left feeling more than a little disgruntled.

Pete can  see the cracks as he gets up on the old soapbox.
Pete can see the cracks as he gets up on the old soapbox.


This is twenty one hours after the latest awful performance so I have kept my promise not to write straight after the game and to reflect on the positives and the negatives before enlightening the readership of my views on the current state of Sunderland AFC. The use of the word “awful” in the first sentence may give you some idea of how I felt about this game. I could have used abject, appalling or abysmal – and that is just the As. The rest of the alphabet would have thrown up many, many more.

In the seven, I questioned the Head Coach’s selection and tactics. Basically, he got them wrong.

Here was a Liverpool team which, in the last ten days had been embarrassed by the pace of Leicester City and the physical strength and crossing power of AFC Wimbledon. They appear to have no decent forwards, play with three at the back and attack down the wings. They do, if given space, have some pace. What do we do? Defend deep. Allow them to come at us. Hope to stop them getting past us on the edge of the box with resolute defending as we had at Anfield. Catch them on the break and pick them off.

These are not tactics to warm up a large crowd on a cold day. Many of those sat around me are beginning to realise that we are slow, ponderous and prone to make mistakes. The Head Coach is rapidly running out of goodwill, something which Sunderland fans will show to those who are at least prepared to have a go. The team selection and the use of substitutes did nothing to endear Poyet to the increasing number of doubters in the East Stand seats and Gents. Why continue to play a centre half at right back when there is a fit right back on the bench? Why persist with a clearly out of form Jordi Gomez and then play him for the whole ninety minutes? Why play with one up front against three defenders? Why allow Liverpool to dictate the way that the game should be played?

On Monday Akinfenwa and Tubbs put pressure on Skrtl and company and thus made it difficult for Mignolet. Neil Ardley, the AFC Head Coach had identified the weaknesses that are still there in Brendan Rogers’s side and he nearly got a draw out of the game.

Unlike the fourth level side, we completely failed to take the game to Liverpool. They could have been one up in the first five minutes when the referee gave Brown the benefit of the doubt when he appeared to trip Markovic. There was no doubt a few minutes later when the same player picked his way through a succession of feeble tackles to score what turned out to be the winning goal. It could and should have been more as we continued to pass the ball sideways and backwards and then whack it up to Connor Wickham, who was totally dominated by Skrtl. The ball was given away so easily and so often that Liverpool probably found it difficult to believe that this was the self-styled “difficult to beat” team.

Not so much difficult to beat as difficult to watch. This was a truly painful experience which made many realise that here comes yet another relegation struggle. We avoided the drop last year because we had nothing to lose and because the three who went down were clubs in chaos. I don’t see much of that this season as West Brom and Crystal Palace have made their coaching changes, while Burnley and Leicester appear to be coming to terms with the division and have pace in their teams.

That leaves Villa, where the fans are turning on Paul Lambert, QPR who are useless away from home (they come to us next month; put your mortgage on a 0-0 draw) and Hull, whose manager is now preparing for a second career as a High Court Judge if his asinine comments on the Ched Evans case are anything to go by.

But what about Sunderland? Are we going to rely on others or are we going to do something about it? And if so, what?

First of all, we could try playing two forwards up front instead of sticking one of them out wide. I had some sympathy for Wickham yesterday, who had to feed off the proverbial scraps – although he gave up far too easily and being replaced by Danny Graham shows how much off the pace he was in the second half.

Jake: 'takes up Sixer's Shakespearean theme.
Jake: ‘takes up Sixer’s Shakespearean theme.

Secondly, we could try to start a game with some tempo and not allow the opposition to dictate the way that the game should be played. How do we do that? Moving the ball forward would help. Liverpool are vulnerable to players who run at them – look at Schlupp’s goal for Leicester and the performance that Rigg turned in for AFC – but we consistently fail to do this.

Some of Poyet’s after match quotes are worrying; “I’d have thought that by now I would have had a better impact on how the team plays. Some players are taking a long time to learn the basics of how I want to play.” What to make of this? We have a decent sized squad, many of who have arrived at the club in Poyet’s 15 months here. Are there players here that have been imposed on him? Is he still looking at those that O’Neill and Di Canio brought in and who do not fit his style? What is his style?

The last question is the key one. He clearly likes to play on the counter and two of the paltry three wins that we have had this season have come when the opposition have been chasing the game. Palace ran around making errors allowing us to catch them on the break, while Newcastle did the same, allowing us to pick them off. Giaccherini, Alvarez and others thrive on this kind of play. How many good games has the Italian had at the Stadium? He has looked a far better player away from home as has Alvarez and, believe it or not, Gomez.

But at home we can be awful. We have not had a crowd of less than 40,000 this season, a testimony to loyalty, hope and the club’s marketing policies, but that loyalty cannot be relied on as the winter of discontent descends on us.

The next home game is against a quick, lively and uninhibited Burnley side who really must fancy their chances against a plodding, out of touch Sunderland. And there is Spurs away before that. It could be a long, hard winter and a not very bright spring.


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16 thoughts on “Sixer’s Liverpool Soapbox: when sorrows come they come not single spies”

  1. The frightening thing about Southampton is that despite selling a load of players in the summer they still have real depth to their squad and young players coming through who look the part.

    Look at their bench against Man Utd for an example. We are absolutely threadbare.

  2. I believe we will look up and laugh, from the Championship.
    The writing has been on the wall for several years, with several near misses.
    Worrying thing is that we make lots of changes and yet nothing changes, we are still the worst team to watch in the PL.
    I think a big change is needed at SAFC but where?
    We have tried both new and old managers none making any difference. We have bought dozens if players with no change to the quality of football. I am not sure what influence the upper management have on the club, maybe they are as exasperated as us, or maybe they are incompetent at hiring the right people.
    Certainly most of the players are championship quality.
    What next????

    • We cant compete for players with the Chelseas and Man City’s ,we all know that all the good players are only going to a team that is in the Champions league,players of the calibre we need to compete at this level just dont want to come to Sunderland,no matter what you offer them in wages.We are just going to have to live with what we are,a poor team that is a cert for relegation,I dont like it,but I cant see any bright spots on the horizon.

      • What a difference between us and Southampton, a club arguably less well endowed than Sunderland.

        It is incredible that with all the natural talent in the North East, we have benefitted so little.

        We need to develop an ethos at the club, so that we begin to grow our own.

        Firstly however, we need a visionary manager/coach. Look what is happening at Bournemouth.

  3. Battalions of problems all rightly identified by Sixer. After 50 years why does it never seem any different?What about playing Johnson central mid-field? It seems to have been the making of his former Boro’ winger.

  4. Players are taking longer than expected? Hmm. The worrying thing is the better players at the end of last season and the beginning of this, so the ones who have ‘got it’, weren’t Poyet’s buys: Cattermole, Larsson, O’Shea, Brown, Giaccherini (in fits and starts), Johnson. Can we therefore expect that as Poyet continues to identify players for Congerton to buy, as that is the stated (by Poyet himself) structure, we shall get weaker and weaker? Especially given his desire for adaptable/versatile players, i.e. players who are useless in several positions! Can you tell I’m bitter and depressed?
    Let’s just hope our run of home games against our fellow strugglers brings a series of wins, and we can all look back and laugh at our worries.

  5. A Limerick

    A Premiership genius called Gus
    Sole strategy was parking the bus
    Just sideways and back
    No need to attack
    And so it was ever thus

    The natives grew restless it seems
    With relegation haunting their dreams
    But Gus said don’t despair
    For with a point here and there
    Seventeenth is within our means

    Now the window’s still open today
    Could a saviour soon be on his way
    Says Gus to our Lee
    Please, another defender for me
    And we will be safe and okay

  6. Yes, A Brian Rix farce. I could just imagine Gomez running around with his trousers around his ankles. He wouldn’t be any slower than he is now.

    • KevS

      At least it would be a change from taking their shirts off! –
      although that particular activity is not often required of our players.

  7. Brian Rix and Charlie Drake would be good signings,they couldn’t do any worse and they are both 6 feet under?

  8. This year were going down,we are a poor championship side,the management and the players are hopeless,they have no idea how to take the game to the opposition.Take Chelsea and Man City out of the picture and the rest are poor,they are there for the taking at home and not that scary away,but this team is lacking so much in skill and tactics,its scary? I cant see them doing anything with this bunch of clowns.I hope i’m wrong,but I dont think I am….Doomed,were all doomed!!!!!!!

  9. Hopefully it will be “All’s Well That Ends Well.”. Should have mentioned Craig Pawson, who had a good game. Bridcutt made it easy for him.

  10. Continuing the Bard theme, I hope the season doesn’t turn into a tragedy, and certainly not a “Comedy of Errors.”

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