The inquest goes on. Andy Nichol* regularly offers his wise, challenging thoughts on all matters SAFC at the Blackcats e-mail loop. Monsieur Salut invited him to share with Salut! Sunderland readers his assessment of the Swansea debacle and the appalling mess in which the club finds itself. He urges Gus Poyet to make a radical shift in team selection, starting with more use of the famous 14 summer recruits and some overdue Gardner leave for our talkative but error-prone midfielder …
Social media may be a power for good for many but when my mate received team news via Twitter on Saturday, my final pre-match pint took on a strangely bitter taste, one that had nothing to do with the brewing process.
Our midfield was to again include the three amigos – Larsson, Gardner and Cattermole – and as if that wasn’t enough of a kick in the Sauravs, Ha Ha Bardsley was back and on the elft at that. Groundhog Day, the player-power revolution now complete. Damn you Di Canio. Damn you Short, Byrne and De Fanti.
Anyway, I don’t profess to have any supernatural powers but I certainly knew what was going to happen during the next couple of hours. I may as well have caught the next train back to London and saved myself the indignity of watching “that”.
I didn’t foresee quite such a capitulation, but uninspiring football and inevitable defeat were nailed on. I wasn’t wrong: we were dreadful.
Even in the first half when largely comfortable in negating a dormant Swansea, we weren’t very good and only Giaccherini showed glimpses of the skill-set one expects from players at this level.
Yet do we actually have to be as bad as this? I don’t think so. There are better players in the squad than the plodders who laboured around the park; Gardner and Larsson are spent forces at this level. Ha Ha Bardsley and O’Shea are past it. We know it and so should Poyet if he really had been studying us as a team as he indicated prior to his appointment.
One of Gardner or Larsson in midfield (plus Cattermole) and you know you’ll eventually be overrun, never mind all three of them: no pace, no speed of thought, no willingness to move off the ball.
It’s perhaps mean-spirited to single out one player after that shambles but I don’t care. I’m finished with Gardner after this. He had far too much to say last week: all that stuff about welcoming back Ha Ha Bardsley, sticking Dossena at left back, allowing him and Colback to return to their preferred central midfield positions.
Isn’t this for the manager to decide, Craig? Anyway, you and Colback in central midfield eh? I’d stop going. And by the way, who dallied on the ball in midfield from our free kick yesterday? You know, when you gave it away and they burst forward and won the corner for the first goal – scored by your mate Ha Ha Bardsley? Then who made a pitiful attempt to close down De Guzman when he prepared to shoot their second?
And who gave away a schoolboy penalty, Craig? Again. And who was embarrassingly slow when he had the chance to put us 2-0 up against Man U the other week, Craig, just like when you bore down on goal at the Wongadome two years ago (the Sessegnon sending-off game) eh? Remember? Acres of space, runners either side, but you dithered and allowed a defender to get back and pick your pocket, eh? Too slow of feet, too slow of thought – not good enough then, not good enough now. Do your talking on the pitch next time, eh Craig?
See what M Salut made of it at ESPN: From Saint-Tropez to Swansea to share Poyet’s nightmare start
And catch The Chapman Report: Relegation a no-brainer for this shower
For me, Poyet spent his time listening to the wrong people last week – there’s a reason most of those nuggets were still at training just as there’s a reason others weren’t. Seriously, if all he can come up with to put his own stamp on the team is to reinstate Ha Ha Bardsley (and out of position at that) then we are truly done for. What Poyet should be doing is identifying the underlying reasons we’ve been so bad for years and binning the common denominators, not prolonging their careers. Brown, Gardner, Larsson, Bardsley, Vaughan and O’Shea for starters? Johnson and Cattermole to follow?
I’m baffled that so few of the Gang of 14 have been assimilated into the first team and only two seem to be regulars – Giaccherini and Roberge. Ki maybe. Diakite should be given a run of games in place of O’Shea and Cabral must come back into the side – I saw enough of him in Hong Kong and v Fulham to think he’d improve us and, maybe alongside Cattermole, provide a solid base for others to venture forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Mavrias and Karlsson have also shown glimpses of talent that suggest that they would offer more than the old guard who hold such sway in the dressing room but offer nothing but stodge on the pitch.
Dossena has to come in at left back instead of Bardsley (or the hapless Colback for that matter). There have been times of late when we were starting to look better; a midfield at Swansea with Larsson, Gardner and Cattermole was a big step backwards.
We may be conceding the daftest of goals but it is in midfield where we just can’t live with opponents’ pace/movement (save when employing the pressing/harrying tactics which have brought some success but leave us knackered soon after half-time). The old guard have had their day – it’s time to turn to the Gang of 14 before it’s too late and they too settle into and adopt the “Sunderland way”: easy training, easy social life, easy money.
* Read Andy Nichol’s fascinating story in our Mackem Diaspora series: https://safc.blog/2011/03/the-mackem-diaspora-5-draft-dodging-apartheid-and-gazumped-by-bob-stokoe/
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