Phil Smith analysis: No mitigating factors for selection and another pedestrian Sunderland performance at Watford

A short passage of play that said a great deal.

Saturday, 1st April 2017, 5:12 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 9:30 pm
Sunderland look closer than ever to the drop after latest defeat

A Sunderland corner, following an effort that has drifted just wide.

Watford were a side stocked with burly players and so to cut it back to the edge of the area did make some sense, but the ball was pinched and the Hornets broke clear.

Quite frankly they burned clear of the Black Cats, who could not get close to their runners. Jordan Pickford saved them, as he did on a number of occasions.

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Watford were not superb, not breathtaking, but they were quicker, more powerful and they kept the ball better.

To look off the pace against a side in a rut as the Hornets were confirmed why Sunderland will all but certainly be relegated to the Championship.

Injuries were no mitigation today.

This was Sunderland's strongest bench in a while, not filled out with inexperienced youth as it has been on occasions.

This side, so lacking in variety and speed, was selected on merit. Didier Ndong's impressive cameo, finding a drive down the right flank that had been clearly lacking up up until his introduction, made the decision to leave him on the bench difficult to explain.

Watford may well possess a physical threat but the way Jason Denayer was brushed aside by Etienne Capoue did not back up his selection in the midfielder. Watford as it happened did not need to rely on their physicality, as it was clear that they could get round their opponents on the break.

There was another polarising cameo from Wahbi Khazri.

Some poor deliveries, an unnecessary spat with the linesman, times when he looked to be struggling physically.

At the same time, however, he brought an approach that we have not seen enough from Sunderland attackers this season. Receiving the ball and getting his head up, looking to make the crucial pass, not giving it away aimlessly when under pressure.

He is not a saviour waiting in the wings, but he is worthy of a chance to feel his way into the game properly, from the start.

That the current forward line has not scored in five is no coincidence, confidence is short and does not like returning any time soon,

Where do Sunderland go from here?

Leicester are resurgent, and the Black Cats now have to play the game on terms that will suit the Foxes. They will have to chase the game, and the way they looked vulnerable on the counter today does not bode well against a side who does that better than anyone in the league.

There have been times this season when Sunderland have had precious few options, when their approach has been almost enitrely dictated by the players available.

That makes today all the more frustrating, when so much was self inflicted.

Not even the sight of Lee Cattermole and Victor Anichebe is likely to lift spirits too highly.

Too much has gone wrong in their absence.