Cat’s Eye View: Toothless in attack and shambolic at the back, the toxic mix that sees Sunderland on the brink

Sunderland right-back Billy Jones defends against Brentford on Saturday. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland right-back Billy Jones defends against Brentford on Saturday. Picture by Frank Reid
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On the eve of the Brentford game, Sunderland released a rousing video on their Twitter feed under the banner ‘Time to stand up.’

The inspiring video, expertly put together by the club’s media team, was a rallying call, highlighting examples of the albeit rare occasions when this squad has stepped up to the plate.

While it may have briefly raised spirits among fans, the players clearly didn’t get the message.

Any momentum gained from the stunning fightback at Ashton Gate the previous weekend evaporated in the opening nine minutes at the Stadium of Light on Saturday when Brentford won four corners, racing out of the blocks and pressing Sunderland back.

Everyone knew what was coming.

Kamohelo Mokotjo’s 13th-minute opener, followed by Neal Maupay’s clever finish just before the hour mark, sealed the win. Both goals came from Sunderland mistakes.

Sunderland have conceded more first-half goals (27) than anyone else in the Championship.

Shocking. In total, 57 goals have been conceded.

Sunderland have the second worst defence, only Burton Albion have shipped more.

And only goal difference is keeping Sunderland off the bottom of the Championship. How did it come to this?

Some fans left the Stadium of Light when the second goal went in. You couldn’t blame them. It was game over.

Post-match, manager Chris Coleman looked to be carrying the weight of Wearside on his shoulders as he attempted to dissect what he’d just witnessed, arguably one of the one worst opening 45 minutes in recent memory.

Sunderland were so far off the pace it was untrue.

Brentford were first to everything, wanted it more, were granted too much time and space on the ball, with Sunderland’s midfield non-existent, with the exception of Joel Asoro, who again caught the eye.

The midfield offers no protection to the back four.

It’s a back four that lacks physical and mental strength, organisation and positional understanding.

They are too often bullied, with a distinct lack of tackles or challenges being made.

Up front, Sunderland are toothless in attack.

Lewis Grabban has not been replaced properly, with on-loan Ashley Fletcher still searching for his first goal.

The squad isn’t robust enough. Too many players are not up to playing consistently up to three times a week, yet the Championship demands it.

Coleman’s squad is a mix of loans, youngsters and injury-prone senior professionals.

Sunderland were shambolic against Brentford and questions can be asked of Coleman’s selection, with Jake Clarke-Salter playing left-back, but the players themselves have to take more responsibility.

If Sunderland don’t stand up at Bolton tomorrow night, then it looks to be curtains and League One football next season.