Chris Emmerson contributed a piece last week and is back with some post Boro thoughts. Keep calm lads and lasses, it’s only the second game of the season…
Reading through social media after the game, as is the ritual these days, it seemed I was one of the few fans who walked away from the ground fairly positively. I’m not going to sugar coat the basic fact that we lost the game. Of course I’m disappointed we lost to Boro. Perhaps more than normal (I mean we get beat a lot so should be used to it) as I thought we could take something from the game. But I am going to suggest why it is not all doom and gloom.
For a start, credit to Boro. I don’t possess a huge knowledge of their team but they appeared to be a hardworking committed team. I don’t think they did a job on us but simply played with a good balance of attack and defence. It may be harsh on them but I think they are playing fairly close to their potential. How far this will take them over a full season only time will tell.
Enough about them though. This was Moyes’ first home game of his tenure and there was no head scratching possession for possession sake philosophy; or overly attacking 4-2-4 line-up; and importantly the team weren’t unfit and playing like they hadn’t seen each other before. The team lined up in a 4-2-3-1 and attempted to move the ball directly. For large parts of the game the tactics worked. Over the full 90 minutes we had plenty of opportunities to really hurt Boro as several of our players ran confidently with the ball, got in behind and found space in their defence.
What I will grant the doom merchants is that we wasted a lot of these opportunities. This brings into focus the personnel; especially the three behind Defoe. They were young. With youth brings rawness that can be exciting but in equal measure naivety. Yet two of the three, Watmore and Gooch, are from our academy. We have been waiting a long time for our academy to fulfil its part of the bargain. Gooch went on to drop into midfield during the second half to show what a well-rounded player we have on our hands. That’s not to say I want to stick to this approach. And neither does Moyes. He knew before the game we need senior players and it is exactly the same after the game. What it highlights is that with a few additions we can have an exciting squad with the right blend of academy and senior players fighting for places.
At two down and boos (I leave my views on adults booing for another article) ringing around the ground former Sunderland teams would have gone into their shell and more than likely went on to concede several more. But with a re-shuffle from Moyes the team went on to take the game to a team who had earned the right to sit deep. We were rewarded with a goal and deserved a second to draw level over the 90. This from a team that were missing several first teamers and had no recognisable centre midfielders on the pitch.
Moyes has spent the first couple of months firefighting on and off the pitch. He wasn’t appointed to troubleshoot he was brought in to progress the club into an established, competent and competitive Premier League team. There was nothing on Sunday to suggest he can’t achieve this but it’s going to take time and this is only his second game in charge.