IT’S not quite back to the drawing board, but after the Chelsea performance it was a real shame to see Sunderland regress like they did on Wednesday night.
The trip to Anfield tomorrow presents another tough challenge. The lads need to put the Manchester City performance behind them and galvanise themselves for what will probably be another backs-to-the wall performance.
It was always going to be difficult to replicate that Chelsea performance just three days later. Gus was probably stuck between a rock and a hard place, and I felt we were a bit more open and expansive.
For the players to concentrate to that level for 90 minutes so soon after Sunday would be practically impossible; that was reflected in our play, and most importantly, the result.
Liverpool haven’t exactly been in sparkling form, but possess top class talent in most areas of the pitch.
But how can Sunderland best expose the faltering Merseysiders? It might be a case of picking a team to win a game, rather than picking the best individuals.
Poyet has already said he might need to make some changes and freshen up the side. There’ll be tired legs after two punishing games and we need to find some spark on Saturday. Playing away from home will offer use more space to play in, and Sunderland must defend resolutely before using the ball sensibly, then exploiting any potential weakness in the Liverpool ranks.
This is no slight on Steven Fletcher, who has been particularly good recently, but he’s taken a few knocks this week and may require a breather. There might be a case for Jozy Altidore in this game.
He’s not the most gracious of players, but he’s done okay in the last two games. He’s the only forward we’ve got who can stretch teams in behind, and that will be key in creating spaces to work in for others.
If Jozy can work the centre backs, maybe Fletcher could punish tired minds and legs late in the piece.
Hopefully Adam Johnson will be back fit. Poyet might even consider returning Connor Wickham to his favoured central role, and flanking him with Johnson and Ricky Alvarez.
Alvarez was one bright spot to come out of Wednesday night’s slaughter. He looked fitter and stronger, carried the ball confidently and won a few free -kicks in dangerous areas.
If we can create pockets of space on the break at Liverpool, players like Alvarez and Johnson are the ones you want to be receiving the ball in dangerous areas. They have the quality to punish teams.
Given we’ll more than likely have fewer opportunities, we need to make sure we give ourselves the best chance of taking the ones that fall our way.
Logic points to a Liverpool win. But Sunderland must regain the spirit of last weekend. If they take to the task at Anfield as they did against Chelsea, they’ll give themselves a fighting chance of a positive result.
If we could nick three points somehow, we’d be bouncing going into another tough home game against West Ham.
You never know what you’re going to get with Sunderland. Let’s hope we’re not too disheartened come Saturday evening.
– Gareth Barker
H The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can be stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.