Sixer’s Liverpool Soapbox: applause for gutsy display overlooks key shortcomings

Jake's lament: 'three-something, we always lose three-something'
Jake’s lament: ‘three-something, we always lose three-something’

Pete Sixsmith is full of praise, as were the supporters, for the spirit and, often enough, skill shown by Kevin Ball’s men. We can moan about the latest in a string of Howard Webb decisions adversely affecting Sunderland teams. Bottom line, though, is another defeat with nothing in the forthcoming cluster if fixtures to suggest happier days arejust around the corner …

Well, at least we are consistent. That’s four league games in a row where we have conceded three goals leaving us with a goals against deficit that looks like a Royal Bank of Scotland balance sheet. That one of the goals probably should have been disallowed for handball is scant consolation.

There was plenty of spirit and some bright periods of play where we pushed a more composed Liverpool team almost to the limit. But when it came to the important bits – putting the ball in their net and stopping them from putting it in ours – we were found wanting.

There were chances. Larsson hit the bar with an excellent free kick and who knows what might have happened had that gone in. As it was, Liverpool opened the scoring four minutes later, when a corner from Gerrard was ignored by Westwood and our defenders and was bundled in by Sturridge.

Replays showed that he used his arm to get it across the line, something that I failed to see 80 yards away in the East Stand and the referee’s assistant failed to see from 15 yards. Pointless asking Howard Webb, who once again showed why he is the second best referee in his house after Mrs Webb.

However, why was it that, once again, we conceded from a set piece? I would suggest that Westwood elected to stay on his line after recalling that West Brom had scored from a poor punch. He does not command his box at all and he cannot rely on defenders who consistently fail to attack the ball. As a result far too often, we are chasing the game.

Eight minutes later, the lumbering Carlos Cuellar was taken to the cleaners by the sharp, pacy Sturridge whose excellent low cross was turned in at the far post by The Man You Love To Hate aka Luis Suarez. It was a real poacher’s goal but nobody had picked him up, all having moved into the centre to try to make up for Cuellar’s slip.

Cuellar was horribly exposed and, despite recovering and having a decent second half, will continue to be so if he remains in the team for any length of time. I understand Kevin Ball picking players that he knows, and I know that Diakite is injured, but many felt that Sturridge would not have been able to create that goal had there been a quicker defender up against him.

We still had a chance to get back into it when Cattermole dinked a ball into the box and Gardner failed to beat Mignolet. 2-1 at half time might have lifted the team and there was some consolation that we had played quite well – but not well enough when it mattered.

Sixer sees no immediate light at the end of the tunnel
Sixer sees no immediate light at the end of the tunnel

There was a buzz about the ground generated by an appearance of the victorious Durham County Cricket Club team and that buzz became a roar when Giaccherini took advantage of a parry by Mignolet to pull a goal back five minutes into the second half.

Again, we had Liverpool rocking, but the lack of a goalscorer severely hampered us. Altidore worked hard, but does not look remotely like a 10 goal a season man – which he has to be in the absence of Fletcher.

The third goal from Suarez wrapped it up two minutes from the end and the players left the field to rousing applause and a feeling of goodwill from the crowd. Plenty of effort and some skill on show – Giaccherini is great fun to watch at the moment and Cattermole had a good game until his legs went on the hour. Colback and Henderson had a real tussle down the left hand side as befits former team mates and I would say that Jack got the better of Jordan.

Had we had a few points on the board and lost this one, I would be fairly sanguine, but our position worsens week by week. This was the first of a spell of four which pitch us against two title contenders, a team who play some of the best football in the division and that lot from up the road.

We have but a single point; by this time in 2005, we had collected four after Julio Arca and Tommy Miller had won the game for us at Middlesbrough. So, we are behind that team and although we have better players this time round, there is no guarantee that the excellent spirit we saw today will last if we suffer three more consecutive defeats – and the signs suggest that we might.

Gary Bennett suggested that the club may well wait until after the Manchester United game before making an appointment. They seem determined not to rush into this and make sure that they get the right man. Names are being thrown up all the time – Sean Dyche of Burnley cropped up today – but Poyet remains favourite with the bookies.

Whoever takes over needs to address the problems that we have had for years: goals needlessly given away and chances not taken when offered up.

It’s that easy.

* See also: Monsieur Salut has his say at ESPN: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/2160?cc=5739

Sample:

Losing 3-1 at home to a strong Liverpool side once again chasing honours would not, in itself, give reason for alarm.

But five defeats in just six Premier games so far, with Manchester United next up as the fixtures list gets tougher still, is not just relegation form; it is the stuff of records of the wrong kind.


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21 thoughts on “Sixer’s Liverpool Soapbox: applause for gutsy display overlooks key shortcomings”

  1. CSB I agree with you. Very difficult to see what any manager (other than perhaps Pulis who might be able to save us given his record) can do with this lot. Serious questions need to be asked about de Fanti’s role in this having provided us with a bus load of players who appear ill equipped for the PL. He has no experience of English football. He seems to be escaping criticism when much of it should be aimed at him.

    Give the job to Bally if not Pulis and lets go down at least scrapping and with some dignity and self respect. It will take a shrewd man to be able to do anything with this lot. I’m not sure that I agree with the criticisms of Bally’s team selections as Diakite would have been simply bewildered as to who to swap shirts with at half time in this one. “Should I go for Sturridge?” “Shall I wait until full time and have a word with Luis?”

    I can’t see where Westwood deserves criticism for any of the goals we have conceded so far. I thought he was superb at the weekend and one of the few things to be grateful for after a desperate influx of strangers. Cattermole had the best game I’ve ever seen from him and the standing ovation he got was well deserved. As for central defensive partnerships it’s Hobson’s choice. There isn’t a decent one to make from what we’ve got. People were laughing at me when I moaned about Michael Turner being sold by O’Neill.

    • Yep I agree Jeremy, De Fanti has some questions to answer particularly if Cabral goes out on loan. just can’t understand why we signed him if this is the result.

  2. Drop O’Shea or Cuellar , or preferably both Bring in someone with some pace
    Drop Westwood , shoot Johnson
    Bring in Ba , Karlson and Cabral

    Simple really

  3. There were some positives to take from the performance, but we have been there and seen it before, likewise the failings were nothing new either.

    What we have to ask ourselves is what will the new manager, whoever that is, do with this lot? We may all be guilty of thinking that who ever comes in in is going to perform miracles, we expected this of MON and were largely left underwhelmed.

    Maybe its time to be realistic about what is going to happen under a new regime, we are not suddenly going to turn some average (too many) PL stalwarts in to world beaters. We struggle to score at one end and concede too easily at the other. Priority one will be to shut up shop, if you don’t concede then you don’t lose and you get something from the game.

    This approach unfortunately leads to less than exciting performances but may be the price we have to pay in order to maintain PL status.. I remember Alan Durbans philosophy of build from the back and the reward he got for it.

    Whoever comes in, and some of the names being bandied about are just plain scarey (Eriksson OGN, Mc Claren FFS, even Poyet who may have similar issues to PDC) but whoever it is will not have a magic wand, he will be left with the same players at least until the January transfer window to play with. Are there some hidden gems in there that he may be able to release (McClean but with longevity).

    I don’t know but stability in team selection and tactics needs to be established and this will take time and will in all probability see us resorting to one up front and a five man midfield including Catts who in my opinion went some way to repairing his football credentials, pairing him with a fit and active Cabral or Ba may be interesting but we must become difficult to beat to stop the rot and this may result in some un-enterprising performances.

    The selection of the new man and the expectations placed upon him have to be a carefully constructed enterprise as we can ill afford another balls up.

  4. I sort of hoped SupaKev would don his boots, nip on for the last 20 mins and bang in a couple for us….it’s the drugs….he was only commentating…..brutal reality breaking through…Ah! Well…let’s enjoy the rest of the season. Have a beer, chillax….hold on ….reality intervening…..Johnson over-rated. 1point from 6 games….PDC made him captain…really…..Bally will save us…..hold on ….Poyet….FFS…..need more drugs……nurse

  5. Have to disagree Vince.I think Westwood has been responsible for a number of our goals.You don’t have to look much further than the three at West Brom.

  6. Centre backs is the problem,Cuellar was cruelly exposed and O Shea is solid but limited.So far Ive not seen that much better from the alernatives and doubt they would have affected the final result.

    Westwood has not been at fault in most of our goals,though we are sure missing Mignolet…who did make two mistakes btw …..one leading to our goal.Just he plays behind a better defense.

    Altidore is very reminsicent of Heskey, my wife has been saying all season…..He is just not quick enough in the penalty area,though sound holding the ball up and passing.
    We just have to dig in and grit the teeth.We did play well is spells we just have to be more solid as a defensive unit.I was encouraged by the overall attitude just we need to have clean sheets.I hated MON extremely defensive game last year against Liverpool at home, but it did gain a point,which we would have taken happily this time.

    • I don’t mind playing MON style against the big boys,- numbers behind the ball and hit them on the break. But MON did it against everyone.
      Liverpool are a better side than last year too. Sturridge and Suarez are very difficult to play against.

      Still, not to worry. Man U up next! Either we get an under-confident Man U or we get a wounded bull who has something to prove.

      Kindof irritates me that ever since Sess left, he’s been having blinders for West Brom.

      Lets hope the comparisons between Heskey and Altidore stop at the goal-scoring ability stage.

      • For me. Adam Johnson needs to step up and join Giach. He is, after all the local boy. A few years ago he looked wonderful making his Man City announcement. He can do better, and is not doing that at the moment.

  7. I think the only name out there that can save us is Sven Goran Erikson.
    At least he’s the best on the list of managers we know about. He would keep us up I am sure.
    The only other one that would keep us up is TOny Pulis. But I don’t want him.

  8. I thought there were some positives to be taken out of the game. Our midfield looked more robust , Cattermore had an excellent game and Giacherrini is beginning to look like an Italian international.

    Unfortunately the negatives surround the remaining areas of the pitch. Our defence and goalkeeper look highly unlikely to ever keep a clean sheet and there is little to offer from our main striker in the way of goalscoring. These negatives are somewhat alarming.

    I fail to believe that Cuellar is better than any alternatives at centre back and Altidore despite being a physical handful at times just reminds me of a younger and slighly quicker Emile Heskey. It’s not all bad on the Altidore front, he’s better than Danny Graham.

    For what it’s worth I would like to see us go for Sam Allerdyce to fill the managers job. That may well not go down well in many quarters and there are valid reasons not to appoint him.However we really need someone in that can shore things up immediately and establish us as a EPL team consistently. He has a proven track record of both.

    ….crash helmet and flak jacket on….

    • Interesting comparison you make John. I hadn’t seen it myself – but now you mention it! Altidore will have to learn to fall over more easily though if he’s trying to emulate Emile Ivanhoe Heskey.

      • I think he may have had a bit of a name for it when at Hull, and who better than the USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann to guide him?

    • John, I’m pleased to agree with you [ about Big Sam ] He was interviewed when Bruce was appointed. Ex SAFC centre back, would have been the perfect fit at that time [ post Keane ] We would have been top six by now.
      I doubt if he would now leave WHU though?

  9. I despair at present. Ball is a Sunderland man, but the team selection against Liverpool was dire. When faced with the pace and movement of Sturrige, Suarez and Moses, who would pick a central defensive pairing of O’Shea and Cuellar?

    With Ki, Cattermole and Gardner all possessing less than average pace for their positions, only Colback was in a position to stay with the Liverpool movement.

    Apart from Cattermole and Giaccherini, our play lacked intensity and belief all over the park.

    We look like relegation fodder, but I hope that any new coach/manager will have the tenacity to select more pace at the back, i.e. from Diakite, Roberge and Celustka, more energy in central midfield, ie Cabral with Cattermole/Ba, and will try to teach Johnson how to use his body more to stop midfielders embarrassingly simply running up to him and taking the ball away with little physical challenge.

    Tough times ahead.

    • Bally went for experience I think in the team selection. I personally think Roberge would have been better than Cuellar.
      Ki and Cattermole were OK. But I want to think about Mannone to replace Westwood.

      Yes, possibly Moberg-Karlsson for Johnson or Larsson over there and Mavrias ont he left.

  10. The team certainly gave a spirited performance yesterday and at times competed well with Liverpool but not well enough. We knew it was going to be a tough match and so it proved. Amidst all the debate about managers, players and the structure of the club there is little talk of the influence that the owner has had and little talk from supporters as to how much our current state of affairs is down to him.

    I was surprised when I made the point a few weeks back at how many “thumbs up” I got, expecting the opposite reaction. I mostly seem to hear about what a great guy he is putting so much of his personal fortune into SAFC but in my view the club has gone downhill as he has taken greater control.

    It seems that others share my view http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/dave-kidd-american-owners-great-2317795?

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/stan-collymore-sunderland-ellis-short-2317776?

    KenG and I have had a spirited discussion lately about recent goings on and who wields the power at the club, but Ellis Short could do worse than remember the words of another American, Harry S Truman when he said “The buck stops here”!

  11. As usual some fine analysis.The second half against Arsenal was much the same as versus Liverpool.Did we really learn anything new yesterday?Eight of the old familiar faces gives me little cause for optimism.Remember the great run prior to the defeat by Everton in the sixth round replay in 2012,then the absolute dross which followed it for the next twelve months?

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