In case you can bear to read more about Sunderland vs Southampton …

Jake was hoping for better
Jake was hoping for better

This appeared somewhere or other …

If you needed one match to sum up the woefulness of Sunderland’s season, this was it.

For the second home game in succession, a draw was scraped when victory was required. And not a soul among Sunderland’s undeservedly large army of supporters could seriously protest after a game in which relatively modest opposition, as so often since last August, was made to look more like a bunch of world-beaters.

Briefly, it looked as if Paolo Di Canio’s underperforming, frequently non-performing, side might have fashioned their own Premier League safety.

Phil Bardsley delivered one of his very occasional and, as they usually are, very impressive long-range strikes and, after being dominated for much of the game beforehand, Sunderland were ahead.

The goal was a fair reward on the basis of the 10-15 minutes of pressure that had preceded it, but let us not pretend the Saints did not do enough over the game as a whole to justify at least the point Jason Puncheon won soon after entering the fray as substitute. Sunderland’s lead had lasted all of eight minutes.

From then on, there was little to suggest that anything but a draw or away win would be the likely outcome. Southampton might have grabbed a winner; Sunderland did not seem capable of scoring again. The stats were telling: 10 Saints corners and 10 Saints shots on target to Sunderland’s three and five, respectively and 55 per cent of possession to Saints. Simon Mignolet produced the only serious saves that had to be made.

So an excruciating season comes down to reliance on two other teams to do what Sunderland seem unable to do for themselves: ensure their own Premier League place.

You may have noticed that I exclude the possibility of Sunderland leaving the pitch at White Hart Lane next Sunday as a side that has just avoided defeat.

No one viewing the shocking overall quality of performances in the past three games, or for much of the season preceding them, would expect any other result than a comfortable Spurs win. If I am right with that gloomy assessment, Sunderland will stay up only if Wigan fail to beat both Arsenal away on Tuesday night and Aston Villa at home on the final day. Win both games and, barring a result at Tottenham few would predict, Wigan survive.

Until recently I would have said Wigan had no chance of six points from those two games. One or two plucky recent showings in the Premier, and Saturday’s heroics at Wembley, have changed all that.

Arsenal, of course, have a top four place to play for. But they are not on top of the world after a glorious FA Cup final win — and have shown all season they are eminently capable of wobbling. A large chunk of the footballing world will be rooting for the underdogs again. As for Villa, I’d expect them to be easy meat for a buoyant Wigan if the defeat of Manchester City were, indeed, to be followed by victory at the Emirates.

A win and a draw for Wigan from those games would introduce the mathematical possibility of Sunderland going down on goal difference. But that would require not only something like another six-goal hammering for PDC’s men at Spurs — against which I would not bet much money — but almost as emphatic a defeat for Arsenal on Tuesday or Villa a few days later.

In fact, I am not sure I would bet on very much at all concerning the outcome of the relegation battle.

But I would wager everything I possess on the certainty that PDC now knows as well as any Sunderland supporter just what a rebuilding task he has inherited — whether in readiness for a more competitive season in the Premier or a desperate battle to return to it.

Monsieur Salut, by Matt
Monsieur Salut, by Matt

*** From Salut! Sunderland on tour …. http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/1575?cc=5739

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14 thoughts on “In case you can bear to read more about Sunderland vs Southampton …”

  1. I agree with Michael in that we can’t get rid of most of them – we’d need to sign fifteen players and you need to be careful to buy the right ones. Ones that should go for me are:

    Vaughan – like him but just doesn’t offer anything different, and I never understood why we signed him anyway. Cattermole – this lad gets better the more he doesn’t play in some fans eyes I’m convinced. Bardsley – will never fault him for effort but just a good enough footballer, little composure for the top level. Graham – thanks a lot Martin. Kilgallon and Bramble will surely go. Others like Gardner and Cuellar may just about survive as squad players due to the astonishing lack of numbers.

    I’m surprised Scotter thinks O’Shea should go, still a good reader of the game and a cool head in recent times, hopefully well sign a couple of younger centre halves that are quick enough and good enough to compliment him, although they don’t grow on trees. Main wish has to be that Di Canio brings in players that are good enough and isn’t too rash when it comes to signings, it’s generally where Premier League managers earn their corn these days.

    • O’Shea might make a squad player as a full back but I have never seen him as a competent centre back.

      I agree his positional play is good, as is his interception rate, but his distribution is very poor.

      Just look at the last 2 home games where his punts upfield just handed possession back to the opposition time and time again.

      Also he’s not physical enough that’s why Benteke ran him and Cuellar ragged.He gets turned too easily and once the ball is behind him there’s all hell to pay.

      We can do better.

      • O Shea I would keep. Great positional play and a leader and a winner who communicates and motivates on the pitch. He’s not captain of his country for nothing. Benteke has been unplayable a few times this season. He’s just excellent in the air especially.
        Maybe his distribution is poor because our midfield are not moving as they should?

        Hopefully we’ll have Brown back who should replace Cuellar. But isn’t PDC signing that French bloke, (name?). Or is that just paper talk.

        Bardsley, Gardner, Larsson. All top blokes but not had good seasons at all. If Colback keeps playing well at RIGHT back, then why not keep him there? And hopefully buy Rose.
        Vaughn can be brilliant on his day, but like a certain Kenwyne Jones, his day comes once every 10 games or so. Graham…. enough said.

  2. God it’s desperate ,literally ,if they don’t get injured they get suspended then the ones that remain seem to turn the passion on and off at will .Di Canio has a hell of a job on he’s hands

  3. Quality is sadly lacking in this squad which need a drastic overhaul.

    We need ball playing centre backs who can carry the ball out of defence (We have none at present).

    We need full backs with pace (We have none on our books)

    We need a box to box midfielder (We have none at present)

    We need a creative midfielder (We have none at present)

    We need wingers who have pace and can beat their man (we might have one– but £10m!!!! strewth)

    We need 3 more forwards.

    We need a CAPTAIN!!!!!

    Above all PDC needs a squad where he is in control and can DROP non-performers and players are FIGHTING for their place.

    Shut the Academy to pay for the revamp, it’s a vanity project which hasn’t worked!!

    Transfers out –Larsson (no pace), Vaughan (no pace), Maclean (turning circle of an oil tanker) Johnson (while we can get good money) and ALL the centre backs.

      • Happy with:-

        Sess, Fletcher, Mignolet, Colback, Bardsley, Gardner, Cattermole, Johnson, Ndiaye, Whickham and Westwood.

        That’s 11—-Westwood can play up front on his own!!

        Seriously– PDC needs a big squad to rotate and cover for injuries and suspensions,so yes he needs another 11+ players of Premiership quality.

        The key player he needs is a captain if Cats remains on the sidelines.

        When we get a free kick outside the opponents box O’Shea’s antics are irritating in the extreme.

        He’ll go across to Larsson and Gardner lean over at a camp 45% and have earnest words with them.

        What’s he saying?

        “Give me a minute lads to get me breath back, it was a long run up here”

        “Do you remember what we did in training?”

        “You’ve got to get it over the wall”

        The two “kickers” listen with rapt attention with the straightest faces imaginable.

        Does that not in itself demonstrate what’s wrong with the dressing room that the two players concerned have not told him to go forth in the strongest possible terms!!

  4. The club hadn’t had millions ploughed into it Ian. It was Ellis who produced the cash which as wasted thoroughly by Bruce and O’Neill. It wasn’t wasted (well at least not to anywhere near the same extent), under Keane and the Drumaville lads.

    There are no more than 3 or 4 of the current squad who deserve to be kept on regardless.

    • I think 3 or 4 is bit too harsh.

      I’d keep Mingolet,O’Shea,Cuellar,Cattermole ,Colback, Gardner,Johnson, Larsson,N’Diaye,Wickham,Sessegnon and Rose if we can get him.

      We need to sign 2 fullbacks,2 central defender, at least one creative midfielder, a winger and another striker… and a back up keeper.

      Assuming that the likes of Knott, Mandron , Laidler ,Marrs ,Laing and Egan are almost ready ,they would be in the squad.

      • Michael
        Have you watched any of the recent games? Cuellar plays 2 good games when he comes back from injury and is then hopeless. He gave as abject a performance as I have ever seen at Villa and was almost as bad yesterday. I, for one, would prefer Bramble to play next week! Pretty telling was O’Shea’s look to the heavens after yet another complete miskick yesterday. As for Gardner, I would only keep him if we get relegated. He seems a nice, whole-hearted bloke but travelling on the train to an away game doesn’t make him a premier league midfield player. He disappears too often when we are under pressure.
        I would add Westwood to your list, particularly if Mig goes, and I would also add Fletcher.

      • I think we need a few things:
        1) A replacement for McClean
        2) A proper backup for Fletcher because Graham is not fitting the bill
        3) A right back
        4) We need to sign Rose
        5) A dynamic, creative midfielder who is strong enough not to be bossed
        6) A centre back to play alongside O Shea

      • I would keep Cuellar as a squad player up and sign a couple of younger centre backs to play along side JOS. I am assumining that KW will be off if Simon stays.Forgot about Fletch. I still think that Gardner would be a useful squad player given that he can play in a couple of positions…….but I agree not a first choice player.Sadly we do need to keep some squad players

  5. Wigan actually deserve to stay up. I think they put in passionate and honest performances and try to play attractive (unlike for example, Stoke who deserve the Championship).

    Their FA cup final win was a bit fortunate in that City just didn’t turn up or show any passion.
    It will be a different story at the Emirates where Arsenal desperately want to win and will be a lot fresher. And they will run Wigan and stretch them.
    However, as you said, there’s something about Wigan that you can’t just write off. I would bet no money on them going down.

    I can’t see them beating Arsenal, but I can see them beating Villa.

    Something has to happen to Sunderland in the Summer to change. Maybe this £100m bonus can be put back in to the team to strengthen. Mind you, if I was Short I wouldn’t have bought a club that has had so much money ploughed into it already. I’d have to be a billionaire with money to burn.

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