John McCormick writes: Lars Knutsen, who has been gracing these pages a lot longer than me, has made a resolution to post more on this site. That can only be good, as you can see from his reflections on the year we’ve had and the transfer window that opened a few hours ago:
So Sunderland have become a team which is “hard to beat”, meaning that, aside from that out of character “aberration” at Southampton, we have been competitive in nearly all our games this season. And I do include the home defeat against Man. City, when they had 4 shots on target, scoring from every one, with Agüero in lethal form. And I am sure they knew they had been in a game fixture after that return on New Year’s Day.
For fans looking back on the best parts of 2014 for the Black Cats, there was obviously the miraculous “Great Escape” as a highlight – see below – but also the way we have been dominating Newcastle. The 1-0 win at St. James’ on December 21st was terrific, but not really unexpected, given our recent form against the Mags, it appears that we are rapidly becoming their bogey team.
Talking of bogey teams, is Hull now ours? We did very badly against them last season and after the heights of Adam Johnson’s effort a few days before, it was a very limp performance against Steve Bruce’s side, which had more possession, scoring three goals, and ended five-and-a-half hour goal drought.
To be honest, winning one home game this season is not acceptable. The lack of goals is clear to any spectator. As Poyet has himself said, we do need a striker who can reliably hit 20+ goals a season, and that is something the team has not had since Darren Bent’s departure.
Are we playing boring football? I say no to that, as many of the games have been very entertaining and we have only lost 6 league games, and usually while “having a go”. But the fact of 11 draws in 20 games tells its own story; we have not really had the quality to turn many of those into victories. Again, the need for a reliable high-scoring striker is very obvious.
I must admit I expected more this season. Take another look at the way we destroyed Chelsea, Man. Utd., West Brom and Cardiff during that “Great Escape”. The turnaround after the 1-5 loss to Spurs, when Poyet memorably said “he needed a miracle” did not happen immediately. We unluckily lost at home to Everton, and if you have a chance to watch the Youtube video, courtesy of Barry Unwin, just look at how disconsolate Wes Brown looks after his own goal at 0.46 in:
Brown went on with the other senior professional and Connor Wickham to turn the season around in spectacular fashion, which justifiably raised expectations for 2014-15.
How did things turn around so memorably at the end of last season? We did have fighters like Bardsley and Colback in the side, but if we look at the team which won 2-1 at Chelsea in April the only absentees are Alonso, Colback and Borini. What happened to that spark? Admittedly we have not seen much of “supersub” Giaccherini through injury, but I was delighted to see him return against Man. City at the weekend.
If I was manager I would not want to give goals away cheaply, and start matches by not conceding. The first half at the Etihad Stadium illustrated that tactic, and aside from St. Mary’s, our defence has been quite tight, and it has been protected well by the born-again Lee Cattermole, but clearly 18 goals scored in 20 games is just not enough.
How do Sunderland’s management improve the team in the transfer window? I very much doubt that Fabio Borini is the answer. To be honest, I hope he does not come back to the club. He did a job for us last season, but if he had a passion for Sunderland Football Club he would be with us by now. In 2013-14 I found him a bit selfish and more focused on his own performances than that of the team. I would rather see Darren Bent back than the Italian joining us at £12 M! We reputedly netted £24 M for the guy four years ago, when we were sixth in the table, and he is a free agent in the summer.
A fresh face or two upfront would fit in better. To quote BBC pundit Robbie Savage,
“January is the month where you pay over the odds for players who you need to make an instant impact”.
He links us with: Ezequiel Munoz, 24, CB (Palermo), Curtis Davies, 29, CB (Hull), Mohamed Salah, 22, LW (Chelsea), Jay Chapman, 20 AM (Michigan State), Yaya Sanogo, 21, CF (Arsenal) Danny Ings, 22, CF, (Burnley), Fabio Borini, 23, CF (Liverpool), Giampaolo Pazzini 30, CF (AC Milan)
One thing is for certain, we need a top-quality striker who can help us to turn all those potential draws into victories in 2015, and it needs to happen fast.
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