I intimated in the preview yesterday, that I have a lot of time for Sunderland as a club, but I saw nothing to suggest that the team are at best nothing more than relegation candidates.
Which is what makes today’s result so annoying.
We had around 62% possession and created lots of chances, but were nowhere near as clinical as we need to be.
Indeed, I thought we should easily have had at least three goals in the first half alone and a more clinical team would have had five or six, overall, no problem.
So if I think Sunderland are going to seriously struggle this season, where does that leave us?
Well, Grealish and Traore were massively missed today and the fact that we’ve got them to come back is encouraging, so I’m not unduly worried.
If they’d played today, I suspect we’d have tonked Sunderland, as Hutton was given acres of space down the right, although I felt he never really took advantage of it. His passes weren’t incisive enough and I don’t remember him really taking players on.
Imagine Traore in the same situation and I could easily see us having scored at least another two today, probably of his own making, as Sunderland’s defence is as poor as it gets, I reckon.
That said, it’s not as though I thought Hutton had a bad game really. It just could have been better.
Which is a theme that runs through my assessment of the whole side really.
There are points to complain about though.
First was what I thought was very poor positioning by Guzan for the free kick.
I know it’s standard practice by goalkeepers to stand right on one side of the goal, but I’ve never seen the sense in it and surely a slightly more central position makes sense, as at least you have a chance of getting to the opposite post?
Then again, it was a peach of a free kick. But it just seems to me that Guzan seems prone to conceding from them.
He was pretty blameless for the second goal and the only other Sunderland chance I recall, was easily knocked over the top.
That second goal, which leads me onto the second complaint.
Just as I said in the preview, our defence still has me worried.
We always look like conceding and so it proved again, with us looking awful in about the only time they were really needed.
Clark went for the ball and made a mess of it, but even if Lens hadn’t taken the shot, they had a player on the back post in yards of room.
It just looked incredibly poor to me.
Of course, you might say we’re always likely to concede in this way with the way we play, but I just find it worrying and I certainly don’t think we’ll be able to rely on our defence when we play the better sides.
Other than those points, there’s not a lot to complain about, as the team performed okay and just as last week, I find it difficult to really find fault with anyone in particular, although your views of course will probably differ.
Sanchez played well, although he was still sloppy at times.
Gana was industrious and got stuck in.
Amavi went forward well, but also looked iffy in defence at times.
Richards looked solid overall and should have scored when it seemed more difficult to miss, although I’d take the argument that the ball was behind him.
Gestede maybe could have done better, but no overall complaints, as he doesn’t look up to speed yet.
Gil looked fairly good, although I suspect Sherwood won’t be happy with what seemed like a dive in the box.
Bacuna being taken off was the right call today, in my opinion. He got involved in the first half, but things just weren’t happening for him.
And then we come to Sinclair who totally justified himself in replacing the ill/dropped Gabby.
Would Gabby have got that second goal today? My money says not a chance.
And there’s the theme. We did okay, but not well enough against a side that we should have beaten easily.
Anyone I’ve not mentioned, well, they were neither good or bad in any noticeable way.
I find myself wondering how massive those two points might prove at the end of the season, even though I’m still hopeful that we won’t be needing them.
But we really need to start taking our chances much better than we currently are.
Which is why I still think Sherwood is, or ought to be, after a goalscorer (Austin, anyone?).