Didier Ndong out of sorts, what to do with Jack Rodwell plus four other things learned from Sunderland's defeat at Everton

Sunderland's Carabao Cup run ended in meek fashion at Goodison Park last night, with Simon Grayson's side comfortably beaten 3-0.

Thursday, 21st September 2017, 5:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st September 2017, 5:25 pm
Jack Rodwell challenges for the ball.

Here's what we learned from the third round cup exit.

Team selection will be justified if Sunderland pick up results before the international break.

Jack Rodwell challenges for the ball.

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Like busses, the next international break is just around the corner. But before another two-week break in the Championship calendar, Sunderland have three crucial games.

First up Cardiff City on Saturday followed by back-to-back away trips to Ipswich Town and Preston North End.

The pressure gauge is already rising and Sunderland need to start getting results.

Grayson's team selection was criticised at Everton but it will be justified if the rested players - Lee Cattermole, Callum McManaman and Jonny Williams- can help spark an upturn in fortunes over the next 10 days.

James Vaughan has his head in his hands after a header goes wide.

What to do with Jack Rodwell?

Sunderland, as seems to be the case most weeks, started the game brightly with James Vaughan squandering an early chance.

Jack Rodwell had been given a more advanced role and he was helping support Vaughan in the opening 10 minutes but then quickly faded out of the game before being subbed.

Grayson has a dilemma, where is Rodwell's best position?

Jack Rodwell challenges for the ball.

In recent weeks he has played as the holding midfielder and in a more attacking role and looked unconvincing in both.

Ethan Robson makes his debut for Sunderland:

The Sunderland academy graduate, who has been at the club since the age of eight, came on in the 86th minute to make his debut for the club.

A proud moment for him and his family, Grayson gave him a warm pat on the back before he entered the action although by then Sunderland had already been well and truly beaten.

James Vaughan has his head in his hands after a header goes wide.

Robson's debut one of the few positives from a miserable midweek trip to Merseyside.

With Sunderland chasing the game from the 52nd minute having gone 2-0 down, many will query why him or Joel Asoro weren't thrown on earlier with little to lose at that stage.

Didier Ndong out of sorts:

Much was expected of Didier Ndong this season having dropped down a level from the Premier League but he is yet to fire on all cylinders.

Sunderland need more from their central midfield players.

Ndong has the energy levels to run all day and get up and down the pitch but he was reserved against Everton. Big improvement needed.

James Vaughan left isolated. Again.

The former Everton frontman had three sights on goal, a shot that went wide followed by two headers that went wide in the second half.

He was isolated for large parts of the game, though, with little in the way of support from wide men George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch or Jack Rodwell through the middle.

Sunderland didn't carry a goal threat for much of the night and they need to get bodies up alongside Vaughan against Cardiff City.

Billy Jones exposed when forwards run at him:

Grayson managed to shoehorn three right-backs into the side against Everton with Donald Love in his natural position, Adam Matthews at left-back and Billy Jones partnering skipper Lamine Kone in the middle.

Jones has played there before and looked comfortable enough when crosses came into the box, winning two important headers in the first half.

In close quarters, Jones can hold his own but when forwards run at him, he was left exposed. The second goal an example of that. Sunderland were split wide open.

Not his natural position and Grayson wasn't helped by injuries to John O'Shea and Marc Wilson while Tyias Browning was ineligible.

Playing Jones at centre-back should always be a last resort.