Sunderland, remarkably, remain one win, potentially, away from getting out of the Premier League’s drop zone.
But as another game passes with no points, hope takes another knock.
West Brom had £10million-worth of talent to bring on ... the entire away bench would struggle to tot up to £10million combined.
The Black Cats had a decent second half at The Hawthorns on Saturday, but that’s all it was, decent, as West Brom were worthy 2-0 winners.
But what did we learn from the match?
Sunderland need quality:
It’s not an option, it’s a necessity, the Black Cats can’t carry on like this.
A look at the respective benches proves that – West Brom had £10million-worth of talent to bring on, Jake Livermore, not to mention Hal Robson-Kanu and James McClean. The entire away bench would struggle to tot up to £10million combined.
Yes, Sunderland have players to come back from injury and Africa. But they can’t wait, they need to act and act now.
For the second game running, there was a chant of “are you watching Ellis Short?” Doubtless he was, probably from behind the sofa. He won’t sign anyone on the basis of a fans’ song or an appeal from me, but, hopefully, he’ll have seen the problems with his own eyes and sign the cheque/s.
There is still real hope:
For all the poor form, the Black Cats are not dead yet.
Far from it. The inability of the teams in the bottom seven – Swansea aside – to muster points proves that David Moyes’s team are just a win or three away from escaping trouble.
You’d have to say every club, from 14th-placed Watford to Sunderland at the bottom are in danger of going down.
Swansea’s win at Anfield and Hull’s improved form are indicators that the bottom three is no longer a case of those two clubs plus one other. It is going to be a case of three from seven, but if the Black Cats are going to be a member of the four survivors they must start winning again – and fast .
Woeful free-kicks and corners. Again.
This featured here seven days ago and this reporter makes no apology for trotting it out again here.
Just what are Sunderland doing on the training ground? Or are players producing impromptu moves from set-pieces?
Whatever the answer, some backsides need a boot up them. Seb Larsson put in two decent balls, which deserved better, but the rest were simply atrocious.
Granted, West Brom are strong defensively, but why are the side trying ‘clever’ moves. Referee Craig Pawson awarded a couple of generous free-kicks in good positions.
What do the Cats do? They lift a ball in towards Jermain Defoe, who can’t keep it in, and then they tap one to the side for a shot and find it blocked by an opponent and West Brom go on a 70-yard counter-attack which brings a free-kick at the other end.
If you don’t want to play the ball in high, have a shot!
Keep a stable formation:
One of Moyes’s strengths has been his flexibility – he’s a boss not frightened to change a system.
Twice in the last week he has started with a 3-5-2, but the gaps have still appeared.
At Burnley in the FA Cup, Tendaya Darikwa was afforded too much time and room to cross for Sam Vokes to head in the opener and on Saturday at The Hawthorns, Matt Phillips benefited from the gap between Papy Djilobodji, the left-sided cental defender and wing-back Patrick van Aanholt.
He has changed to four at the back midway through both matches, but a permanent return to the 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 would assist in these times of trouble.
Give Adnan Januzaj a breather:
There is no doubting the fella’s skill and speed, but, at the moment, he looks a player lacking confidence and touch and the fans are starting to get on his back.
When he set up Defoe’s goal at Burnley on New Year’s Eve with a super run, and then caught the eye against Liverpool two days later, all was looking bright, but he’s gone off the boil since.
Victor Anichebe will, hopefully, provide a more effective comrade for Defoe.
Fans out-perform team:
Another repeat item. Sunderland were booed off at half-time and at the end, but many fans remained to applaud the players and vice-versa.
The red and white army filled the entire away section at The Hawthorns and made themselves. When taunted how bad the Black Cats are, they responded with a chant of “We’re very bad”, or words to that effect.
Hopefully, the fans will stick with it – they do make a difference, as they showed in the Liverpool draw.