Dick might want to take the positives from Sunderland’s most recent collapse against Manchester City.
I’d argue that there can’t possibly be any if you’re 0-4 down after 35 minutes. All positives at that point become irrelevant, unless you score 4 or 5 goals to turn the game around. Something like that happening is as likely as Sunderland keeping a clean sheet at the moment. The most basic of things seem to be evading us. Is it the players? The manager? The answer is both. It doesn’t take a genius to work that out.
Dick needs to put the breaks on. We’re far too open and get sliced through at ease. It’s all very well wanting full backs to bomb on, but the amount of times we give the ball away on the transition is laughable. If the full back goes, they have to release him quickly and simply, rather than dribbling a ball into a crowd, being dispossessed, leaving a yawning gap and 3 or 4 opposition players running at exposed centre backs.
Jeremaine Lens looks like he has many attributes that are perfect for the Premier League. He’s quick, direct, aggressive, tricky. Unfortunately, he seems to have a problem going back across the half way line into his own half. It’s dreadful to watch someone that looks so talented look, to be blunt, so lazy. If he spent less time expending energy shrugging his shoulders then he might have a bit more in the tank to go back over. The full backs need all the help they can get at the moment and Lens is a passenger.
It feels like we’ve managed to fill the team with better players and somehow get worse. There’s definitely more quality there to work with, but we’re just too expansive at times and it becomes self-nullifying. Surely if we set up a little deeper and tighter with the attacking threat we now have, we’d have more chance of nicking a result?
It’s not negative to want to defend properly and give your attacking players a solid platform to work from. It’s clear that we can’t afford to be so loose. The problem for previous managers, most notably Gus Poyet, was that they had to play deeper in order to protect a sluggish back line. The tranfer window was decent from an attacking perspective, but we didn’t really improve things vastly defensively. The back four is more or less the same as it has been for the last couple of years.
At the end of the last season we were set up to defend for our lives. It galvanised us. We picked up some results along the way. Now Advocaat seems to have thrown that out of the window and is attempting to play a brand of football we’re just not capable of. He need to correct the approach and quickly, or risk becoming yet another managerial casualty that promised so much, yet only succeeded to stall at the same point as those that fell before him.
*This article was originally published in The Durham Times.