TWO points dropped or one point gained?
It’s hard to give a definitive answer to that sort of question really.
When viewing any result of any game, we often know very little about the general narrative of that result. There have been five draws in six games for Sunderland so far. Five. And all five have been divergent in a sense.
Scorelines have been replicated, but they have each presented us with different conclusions.
And, as football fans, we tend to live in the here and now, meaning the good performance on Saturday seems to dictate we feel like a chance for that first league win was missed. But, by the same token, the performance offered much of what we’ve been missing, meaning that progression is evident.
Reflecting on the performance at Turf Moor last week, I was a little more concerned about the Swansea fixture than I made out.
On that occasion, the urgency was minimal in our play and the turnover of possession was often only achieved because the opponents’ play was poor.
Then, when you evaluate sides likely to finish outside the top seven, one that boasts a triumvirate of Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson in the middle of the park is about as attractive as it gets. There’s a lot of purposefulness on offer there and our recent inability to play high enough up the field was a real risk of further exposure.
So a much-improved performance, particularly in the second half, that offered clear signs of improvement in our attacking intent, speed of passing and the general ability to dictate a game needs commending.
If we’re taking each game in isolation, then it’s the first home game in which we were possibly favourites. Just because we couldn’t quite get over the line doesn’t suggest to me there’s an almighty cause for alarm.
Against Spurs, we were generally run ragged for 90 minutes yet sneaked a point.
As silly as it sounds, goals can often give a misleading portrayal of how games have been played out.
Positives against Swansea were indeed of plenty, and if those levels are maintained from now on we won’t have many causes for real concern.
Of course, it would be wrong to suggest there weren’t any slightly worrying factors.
For all Connor Wickham’s excellent hold-up play, his ability to be even a semi-prolific goal scorer seems questionable.
Jack Rodwell has played in six league games thus far yet put in possibly his worst performance to date on Saturday.
Patience is understandably needed with him, but the fact that he took up almost our entire transfer budget is relevant. We can barely afford to continue to get that transfer policy wrong. A performance on par with his midfield counterparts could have been enough to make that extra difference against Swansea.
Now I’m loathe to go out on any sort of negative note, so if certain individuals’ performances can be negatively scrutinised then the better performances of others can be rightly praised.
Billy Jones was tremendous going forward and offers perfect balance to the impressive Patrick van Aanholt on the other flank.
Santiago Vergini was excellent in the centre and reads the game in a manner that makes it unnecessary for last-gasp interceptions or recovery tackles. Seb Larsson managed to turn his own performance around. Though it seemed he was often a yard behind play in the first half, he was then instrumental in reclaiming possession and offering a real spark in the second.
And then there was Lee Cattermole’s outstanding contribution. Again.
I think Gus Poyet’s declaration that he’s looking forward to the week’s training speaks volumes.
Hopefully this was the turning point, despite “failing to take all three points”. Well, let’s hope so!
* 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 be stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.