Wise Men Say: Lack of quality in final third is costing Sunderland

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If the 2014/15 season ends up with Sunderland being relegated, the four words engraved on their metaphorical Premier League headstone would be: Lack. Of. Cutting. Edge.

After the stalemate at Villa Park, Gus Poyet rejected the idea that his players try and “walk the ball into the net” and instead theorised that they simply make the wrong choices in the final third.

It amounts to the same thing really, in that a lack of quality is absent in the final third to make something happen.

This is a point reiterated by the gaffer through, often scrutinised, post match ramblings following disappointing results.

Whichever way you decide to translate these comments made by Gus, it’s a fact as obvious as to which is Billy Jones’ weaker foot – it stares everyone in the face.

Once Aston Villa were reduced to ten men on Sunday, this issue reared its ugly head yet again.

I’ll personally reject any claim that Sunderland are a clone of this Aston Villa side (or of Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland side) and simply sit behind the ball looking for sporadic breaks.

Yes, they’re hard to beat primarily, but anyone who has any smidgen of an idea what this group of players are capable of as a collective will understand the necessity of this.

Every time you feel frustrated as a fan, remember where we were last season because it’s not a fact that can be underplayed.

That said, it’s all well and good comparing our results to the same fixtures last season and concluding we’re fine.

But we have to be realistic and wonder if it’s likely the lads will pick up seven points from trips to Man City, Chelsea and Man United this year. It isn’t really, is it?

But 20 points in half a season in is progress, as dull and uninspiring as it seems to some.

The focus now needs to be on player recruitment so that performances become less “dull” and “uninspiring”.

The thing is, Sunderland get the ball in decent areas and move it through midfield competently enough for the most part, but just lack any real purposeness or invention up front.

Adam Johnson displays both of those qualities, but is usually isolated for a variety of reasons.

Emanuele Giaccherini shows them too, but he can’t always bear fruit with his opportunities either.

It all boils down to needing other players.

I sincerely hope we aren’t all left frustrated in the transfer window next month.

It’s disappointing that Jack Rodwell hasn’t emerged as this dominating presence in the middle of the park we’ve craved for so long, and though he has plenty of time to reach that potential, we would ideally get someone in of that ilk now. Then there’s the idea we need forwards.

Both a striker and a front left player in the mould of that Italian bloke who was here on loan last season would be desired improvements to the current situation. And a centre half too.

I think it’s clear that a lot of people are likely to be frustrated judging on what needs to be done and what can realistically be done.

I’m with Gus on the long game here. I’m sure many would like to see us go 4-4-2 and “have a go” at sides, but if Paolo Di Canio’s reign taught us anything then it’s the what the grim reality of doing that is with certain players at your disposal.

Let’s look forward to Man City on the first day of the new year (gulp) and then enjoy the tedious links to that Italian bloke who was here last season.

Happy New Year!

Stephen Goldsmith

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 stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.