Peter Lynn appreciates a victory as much as the next fan. But there are times, he feels, when it’s important not to get carried away and instead reflect on the weaknesseses and doubts a winning display reveals, as well as the strengths ….
I’m still on the bus with Gus but there are too many passengers!
A win is a win and that’s all that matters to most of us and so it is with me but I feel the need to strike a note of caution as I enjoy the feelgood factor that the Palace win has created. Our last win, against Stoke, was followed by the Southampton debacle and surely we all want to avoid a repeat of that. So I think an honest appraisal of recent performances, both individual and collectively, may help.
I was unable to travel to Selhurst Park so had to make do with TV coverage but even so I found myself squirming nervously many times as I watched a performance that was not matched by the score line. My personal view is that we were rescued by some individual moments of class which tended to mask a rather poor overall team performance. By way of justification, I suggest that our team performance against Arsenal was far better than that against Palace. The post match emotions tend to influence your opinions hence the bitterness of defeat clouds your judgement and likewise the happiness of a win.
In the Arsenal game, groups of players were working together to either win possession back or create something much more frequently than against Palace. If you then add in the effect of a greater number of individual errors then you get what I consider to be a poor performance.
At this point I will have lost a number of readers – thinking to themselves “who cares as long as we win?” If you stay with me I will try to explain my apparent harshness.
The Premier League is the most unforgiving of football environments where a mistake like Wes Brown’s against Arsenal is almost certain to result in a goal against you. Obviously then, following such an error, you now need to score twice to take the lead which was your objective when the game started. If you are a side like ours that finds goal scoring difficult then your objective becomes nigh on impossible.
It is no surprise then that when Gus arrived (or immediately after the 4-0 Swansea thrashing) he focussed all efforts on making the defence better. There has been some success in that respect but if I strip away the positive emotion I felt at getting the draw against Spurs at home, the win against Stoke at home and the win against Palace away, I know that I honestly felt we were outplayed for substantial periods of those games.
This is where I come to the title of this article. I have enjoyed the ride with Gus, especially last season’s cup run to Wembley and genuinely believe he can lead us upward. However, I believe we are carrying too many passengers, either for whole games or for too long in games.
As an example, Wickham against Palace. It could well be that he was being played out of position but his body language seemed to indicate that he didn’t want to be on the pitch. Perhaps as a result, he lost possession too easily, putting pressure back on the defence. If you then observe the same mistake being made by Buckley and Gomez and you quickly have an impossible situation for the defence to cope with. We got away with it against Palace where their attack failed to capitalise and moments of real class by our strikers made the difference on the night.
Now I genuinely hope that these “passengers” prove me wrong. I have had nothing but pleasure in seeing my previously negative opinions of Larsson and Cattermole transformed over the past year.
I, of course, realise that it is still very early in the Sunderland careers of players such as Buckley and Gomez and indeed their playing brief may allow for them losing possession. However, if I use the example of Adam Johnson and his defensive qualities now compared to a year ago, this is what I would like to see as individual improvements for the future, leading to a stronger team.
Bring on Everton!!
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