Wise Men Say: More proof that Defoe must be a starter

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Well, I did say last week that a defeat would bring on the doom again, so soon after feeling very positive after a battling defeat at Arsenal.

Here we are again.

While it’s always important to try and take each performance in isolation, further wins for Bournemouth and Newcastle compound the misery somewhat and make it hard not start really worrying again.

Aston Villa, beaten again yesterday, appear to be the only side we can rely on to lose at present.

Relying on other teams, we can’t afford to do anyway.

We need to do this ourselves and we really need some of our attacking players to do more in games – we could have played another hour against Watford and wouldn’t have scored.

That’s a worry. There’s little doubt that this side looks much better than they did pre-Allardyce, but all the team cohesion in the world is worthless if you can’t put the ball in the back of the net.

That, in itself, is a concern for Big Sam without having to worry about the softly conceded goals making a comeback at the other end.

We’ve seen enough in recent weeks to suggest that the awful defending we witnessed for the Watford goal won’t be a regular recurrence of the early-season shambles. Yet that was little consolation to any of us on Saturday where even a point would have been extremely welcomed against a very decent away side.

It’s also little consolation to any of us that Watford are likely to win quite often on the road this season and be well away from a relegation battle come the end of it.

Viewing the game specifically, it became obvious after 10 minutes that the system wasn’t working. Three at the back has been very good for Sunderland recently, but the 4-5-1 we’ve witnessed in the last two games should be reserved for the likes of Arsenal. To be fair to the manager, the change to a flat back four was quick and decisive.

The problem is, Watford’s goal was so early, it could never be quick enough. They had their goal to protect, and protect it they did. Even once the game momentum swung into the Black Cats’ favour, the opposition closed our space and grafted out a defensive display our own manager would be proud of.

That’s not to say there weren’t chances.

Had Jermain Defoe been on the field for longer then maybe, just maybe, there might have been a breakthrough.

Perhaps, with the success of the three at the back formation, we’ve lost sight of the fact that having two strikers on the field at the same time was as important as tightening up at the back.

It could be argued that if it’s not 3-5-2 specifically, then the trio needs to go.

If we don’t have the personnel fit or on the books to play a 3-5-2, then Sam’s remit has to be to get two strikers on the field, or, at the very least, have Defoe on the field.

We’ve rubbished the idea of needing to play up front many times on the podcast, and we’ve certainly questioned the logic of signing a striker like Defoe at the time we did.

Yet here we are with a change of tune.

We struggle to create chances without a forward pairing and Defoe looks the sharpest he’s ever been in a Sunderland shirt. If we’re to be defensively sound first and foremost, then the touch of class the England international offers is needed at the other end for when we do create chances.

His movement and touch helps create those chances for others too.

He has to play. Make it happen, Sam.

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes