USUALLY when you watch your team for the first time under a new manager, there are subtle changes implemented by him that highlight some deficiencies in the tactics of the previous one.
Just to keep things relatively current, we can see examples of this with the last three managers prior to Dick Advocaat.
We commended Martin O’Neill for adding some structure to Steve Bruce’s erratic final few games; before applauding Paolo Di Canio for adding some purpose to that side that had almost forgotten how to cross the halfway line.
Gus Poyet brought a style that offered some much-needed control to the midfield of that Di Canio side that was being sliced through like butter on a weekly basis.
So, a snapshot of some of the many positives and negatives from each manager right there.
In the case of Saturday’s game, we’re looking along the lines of the changes we saw when Di Canio added some intent to a side sleepwalking its way to relegation.
Each time the Black Cats tried to get the ball into the final third at the Boleyn Ground, it was a reminder as to how slow-paced this plan of action had become under Gus Poyet.
Back to the Di Canio era, and a hammering at Aston Villa early into his reign was a brief indicator of the surprising tactical naivety we were to witness from the Italian, but, as short-term projects go, the shot in the arm was enough to have us crawl across the line.
In hindsight, it was a poor appointment and incredibly short-sighted, but it didn’t feel like that after the win at home to Everton.
But what makes the desire for a similar shot in the arm more acceptable this time round, is the acknowledgment that this is purely just that; a firefighting mission. It’s likely that somebody else will be in charge next season and everybody, including the players, are aware of that.
Of course, we really do have to try to avoid the scenario of seeking for another quick fix in 12 months or so, but the discussion of who needs to come in long-term can be had at a later date – at least by us fans.
Right now, it’s all about survival and whether Dick Advocaat can replicate the successful outcomes of the last two relegation scraps we’ve been involved in. It was certainly interesting to see how the Dutchman set up and what he asked certain players to do differently.
Playing three strikers close together was brave and to the point, and at least we’re in a situation where we seemingly need not worry about how unsuccessful that may be next season as a long-term plan with these players.
As I keep reiterating, it just has to be enough to pick up enough points in eight games to stay up.
Connor Wickham clearly has many flaws in his game. but watching him finally use his frame and energy to get across the pitch was very satisfying and felt like a long time coming. He as much as anyone has typified the identity crisis Sunderland have suffered with in the last six months or so.
It was also encouraging to see Jermain Defoe getting behind the West Ham back line frequently, particularly with one eye on the derby and Newcastle’s patched-up defence.
But it’s perhaps that great chance that Defoe missed that is the most relevant. Because, for all the talk of an improved performance, this was a game against a side out of form and with little quality on the day, so to take no points from it simply makes the task from here on in that little bit harder.
Without wanting to make the former England striker a scapegoat, his attitude an application in recent weeks make that miss less acceptable.
It’s all well and good throwing your arms around and deciding not to put extra effort in because your team-mates can’t supply you with the chances you crave, but you then have to make sure you do your job and score those chances when they come.
Take that chance and a fragile-looking home side may have struggled.
We now hope that an extra two weeks on the training ground can provide invaluable for Dick, his staff and the players.
A similar situation worked out quite well for Gus Poyet a while ago.
* The Wise Men Say podcast is available 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.