SA’s Essay: Sunderland self destruct at Spurs

Malcolm Dawson writes…….two wins on the bounce had put a bit of colour back into the cheeks of an ailing Sunderland side but we all knew that there is still a long way to go before recovery is complete. Today was a tough test but we started well enough. Organised and disciplined with PvA once again sticking one in. (I shall never tire of using that pun.) But I’m afraid conceding so quickly after taking the lead is not a one off occurrence and it happened again today. Cattermole’s booking perhaps changed the course of the game. We might have had the rub of the referee’s decisions on Wednesday but was it a yellow card offence? Was there even any contact? Looking at it on TV it seemed minimal to say the least but this is Lee Cattermole we are talking about and Big Sam was probably trying to avoid him picking up a second. Rodwell presumably was meant to be a like for like replacement, but why bring on a third centre back and change a system that had looked to be working at that stage? To give Danny Graham his due he had worked hard all game and covered the left back position well. Swapping him for a new signing, short of match practice made little sense. It didn’t take long for The Hoff to make an impression – twice! In his post match e-mail to M Salut and one or two others, the manager makes reference to the ages of the starting centre backs but left both of them on whilst bringing on a third. He thinks we shot ourselves in the foot. Maybe we did but I wonder who he thinks loaded the gun!

Jake's take on Big Sam
Jake’s take on Big Sam


Dear Colin,

To concede 40 seconds after we scored is the biggest disappointment for me today.

We did most things right defensively up until then and we’d scored a superb goal before we went and shot ourselves in the foot. Had we gone in at half time with the score at 1-0 I think it could have been a different game.

We did tire towards the end and our energy was diminishing, but ultimately we’ve been beaten by a very good team.

We gave the goals away far too easy; we should have been a lot tighter.

I made changes as I thought our legs were running out and I wanted us to stay in the game, it’s the aftermath of three big away games and it was to be expected. John O’Shea and Wes Brown are both in their 30s and were maybe feeling it a little bit, I brought on another defender to try and tighten it up.

It was [Jan] Kirchhoff’s first-ever game in the Premier League, it had to happen at some stage and it was always going to be a risk, he needs to get up to speed with the pace of the game and learn quickly.

However, I think our problem today was leaving ourselves open. After we scored, we just let Spurs run right through us and we conceded. We weren’t a tight compact unit like we should have been.

[Jordan]Pickford is a good lad, he’s gained plenty of experience out on loan and that’s helped him a great deal. He came in and he looked very comfortable for someone of his age. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.

Thanks for your support,

Sam Allardyce

Jake: 'the Hoff looked bewitched, bothered and bewildered the whole time'
Jake: ‘the Hoff looked bewitched, bothered and bewildered the whole time’

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15 thoughts on “SA’s Essay: Sunderland self destruct at Spurs”

  1. Lesson learnt here….keep Cattermole on the pitch at all costs.When he is not there we turn to mush.Rodwell is hopeless,a mere token player who just makes the numbers even.Lens needs something, either rocket or a huge cuddle….we better find out fast.Borini I have no idea what has happened to him either.As others have said Jones not good enough and PvA cannot defend.Johnso is ineffective and we are onto the 3rd choice keeper and thinking that is progress?

    As to Kirchhoff,well all I can say is his luck is even worse than the rest of the team,unbelievable.Despite all that we are still not out of this,shows what a poor league this is now I reckon.Bournemouth game is now huge.

  2. What do we think about Lens ? – he symbolizes the team’s main problem which is that as soon as things go wrong (against any remotely decent team) they have no mental strength whatsoever. Lens has let his head drop all season when life gets difficult and was just the same yesterday. The closing down by Jones and Brown for the second goal was also utterly pathetic. I’m sick of hearing about “tired legs” – it’s complete crap. The lack of bottle/spine/will to win/mental strength is what will send us down, not “tired legs” or tactics. Our shower of a squad should be made to study Leicester to see what a team with will to win looks like…they’re on a different planet to us.

  3. Without checking I think Hurley’s first two games were 7 and then 6 hammerings.Don’t believe Kirchhoff’s going to be as good though!

    • The lazy way he half turned and stuck out a leg when they got their third doesn’t inspire me. Pickford would probably have got to it if it hadn’t been for the deflection. Say what you like about Coates but we’ve seen him throw himself around to block shots. Kirchoff was just paying lip service to defending yesterday.

      I won’t write him off yet but he will need to improve fast if he isn’t to become another Vergini or Roberge. Both of them are still Sunderland players and on yesterday’s evidence couldn’t have done any worse than our hapless substitute.

      • I thought Kirchoff had too much ground to cover to get a block in. TV replay showed it was a worse attempt than I originally thought.

        Agree about Coates

  4. We were not expected to get anything from Spurs,they are a good side,we are a crap side.We have too many players who cant cope in the premier league ie Graham,Rodwell Coates,Jones,Brown, and the list goes on.As for Kirchoff,he should never have started this game,he looked like he didnt know what the plan was,but he’ll get better i’m sure,he just needs some time.Charlie Hurleys debut if im not mistaken was a 4-0 defeat and look what he went on to do…..Roll on the other new signings getting up to speed,they look dangerous in the videos on you tube…..Sams a good manager he just needs time to sort the staff out and I feel in my heart that we will go down this time and then after a big rebuild we will become a force under Sam’s leadership

    • Lens was largely anonymous yesterday. He was asked to be the link between a deep lying eight man rear guard and Defoe. He showed one or two decent touches but on the whole didn’t impose himself, but then who did?

  5. I agree, up to a point, with all of you. Sam had every right to feel fresh legs were needed. He must have trusted the addition of a third central defender to be a necessary stabiliser but, if that were the motivation, Coates – warts and all – was the man. Then again, we didn’t know quite how rusty Kirchhoff would look.

    I differ from John Mac in supporting Jake and others who felt Danny Graham did a good job. His was what the French – oops, musn’t mention France – call a role ingrat, a thankless task. Only because he was covering the left flank could PvA get forward and not leave wide-open gaps. Danny will never score goals for us but that was a decent shift.

    There was a strong element of luck about two Spurs goals – the Catts hash of a goal line clearance and the rotten Kirchhoff deflection – and the German’s challenge on Rose was asking for trouble. But we did lose shape with the changes, Catts IS more mature (more than often enough, I now believe, to know how to avoid a second yellow) and if Sam told people to hoof the ball high to Defoe, then he is culpable for that. too. I doubt he told them any such thing but they did it anyway.

    Best that can be said is that a) we got three points from a four-day spell that would have satisfied many with a point from each game and b) have a fellow struggler, Bournemouth, next – just at the right time, ie to make their win over Norwich seem about right, provided of course that we show for the 3rd time in four game that we can beat lowly opposition.

  6. I thought Danny Graham was poor throughout the game. He chased around a lot but missed as many balls as he got and passes went astray as often as not. I can’t understand why he starts and Fletcher doesn’t. He was subbed after getting crocked – he was carrying an injury.

    At half time the score flattered us. We were never doing all right and our goal came against the run of play. We had 3 shots – two were pathetic – and 30% of the possession in the first half. Spurs were able to pick the ball up on the edge of their box (not that it got there often) and move it to the edge of ours at will. I reckoned after the equaliser that Spurs would score again before the hour was up, it took them 59 minutes

    I was level with Catts when he got the card. Some days you get away with it but not today and he can’t complain.

    • You were there and watched the game live which always allows a better assessment of how much individuals contribute. The cameras don’t focus on off the ball positioning for example which can render some opponents ineffective by cutting off supply routes.

      I thought the make up of the team was OK. Fletcher would play a different role if he’d been picked ahead of Graham so I can understand Sam’s logic. Spurs did have the majority of possession in the first half but we looked solid enough and Pickford was up to the job when called upon. Catts got in a tangle when they scored but he got back in position and the way the ball spun and bounced meant he ended up trying to stop it going in with his knee.

      No-one knows what would have happened with a different set of substitutions but I think Sam got it wrong today.

      • Oh and when will the coaching staff do some work on throw ins? We never seem to have many options and our players are static. No-one makes or moves into space and no-one seems to be looking for the ball.

  7. I agree with all of Malcolm’s comments and think this hammering was almost entirely down to Allardayce. OK the quick equaliser was down to lack of concentration but after that, we weren’t pulling up trees but we were doing alright.

    Cattermole shouldn’t have been booked and if he can’t be trusted to take care with a yellow card under his belt, I mean how old is he, he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the first team. He should have stayed, but if you insist on subbing him please don’t bring on the invisible man! Rodwell, nice lad, he’s always very polite, probably kind to animals, he’s crap. We might as well play with ten men.

    Now then, Danny Graham. Another lovely lad who’s in the wrong job, but here I’m going to defend him. We were holding our own, doing alright, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but…Sam takes Graham off and brings on a total stranger, a bloke who’s only been with the squad a few days, and compounds that by changing the formation at the same time. A recipe for disaster? You bet! Sorry Sam, you got more decisions wrong today than the ref did in the Swansea match.

    Just a word about Jordan Pickford. Played two conceded seven doesn’t sound good does it but in both games he saved us from much heavier defeats. It’s a measure of how shaky our defence is when he can make so many good saves and we still get well and truly banjo’d.

  8. Sam has given us reasons why he made the decisions he did. The PvA / Graham decision would have been deemed a masterstroke just before half time. We need to put ourselves in the position we were in at the time he made the calls rather with hindsight. Things turned out badly but I can’t fault him.

    • While I cannot do anything other than agree with you that we comment with hindsight, as we aren’t informed about the manager’s intentions beforehand that’s all we have. When a manager brings on a substitute that has a positive impact and turns a game around we praise his decision making. Like wise when he makes a poor call we are entitled to question his decision making and hope he learns from it.

      Premier League managers are paid enormous sums to have foresight and in my opinion the change of shape was a mistake because of the personnel who were available to him.

      We have a limited squad. The three centre back model worked well when we had Seb and Catts covering the flanks and allowing Jones (Yedlin) and PvA to play as wing backs. When those midfield players were injured we simply didn’t have anyone else effective enough to fit into the system and we looked vulnerable down the wings.

      When we only had two fit centre backs Sam was forced to go back to playing four at the back. This worked best with five in the midfield, forming a solid defensive unit with attacking potential. M’Vila and Cattermole forming the core and Lens, Johnson, Borini all available to provide a bit of flair. It also worked with a midfield four and two up front, as long as one of those was Defoe.

      This afternoon Sam set the team up effectively. He might have brought on Borini for Graham. He might have brought on the Hoff for Wes Brown and kept the shape of the team the same. Instead we had a debutant who has had little time to get used to his team mates being asked to fit into a slot that suddenly meant the rest had to change what they had been asked to do. They didn’t (or couldn’t) adapt quickly enough. Big Sam stressed in the week that the way we get out of the mire is by players knowing what their roles are and then going out and doing what they are asked to do.

      He also had Coates on the bench and while he may or may not rate him, Coates is at least familiar with O’Shea, Brown and the 5 at the back model.

      I’m sure SA will go back and reflect on his substitutions. I’m pretty sure the coaching staff will work with Kirchoff (and Coates) in a back five and things will improve. I wasn’t expecting a win today but thought we might still nick something before the capitulation. Disappointing.

      Finally, am I the only one not totally convinced by Watmore? I hope he proves me wrong but too often he seems to just put his head down and lacks awareness of who’s better placed than himself.

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