Cats Eye View: Sunderland’s fringe players fail to impress ahead of January sales

Wilfried Bony fires his second-half penalty over the bar in Manchester City's 4-1 weekend win over Sunderland
Wilfried Bony fires his second-half penalty over the bar in Manchester City's 4-1 weekend win over Sunderland
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The January sales get underway in a few days, with chairmen up and down the country preparing to dust off their chequebooks.

With next summer’s £5billion television deal at stake, Premier League sides are desperate to stay in the top flight.

But will many of them be looking to Sunderland to see what bargains they can pick up?

On this evidence, no, they won’t.

It seems Sam Allardyce used the Boxing Day trip to put the likes of Vito Mannone, Jordi Gomez and Danny Graham – who had been asking for a chance to impress – in the shop window.

But given their respective performances, it was more bargain basement than shop window.

Allardyce won’t be expecting his phone to be ringing off the hook.

Perhaps it was a nod to chairman Ellis Short – a plea almost – to stress the limitations of the Sunderland squad at Allardyce’s disposal.

Either way, Manchester City away was a strange game to make widespread changes and there was no surprise it resulted in a heavy defeat.

We take a look at how Mannone, Gomez and Graham got on:

Vito Mannone:

Prior to Saturday, Mannone had to make do with a solitary start, in the Capital One Cup against Manchester City in September. Another 4-1 defeat.

Costel Pantilimon has been far from assured, but it was still a surprise to see the giant Romanian dropped at the Etihad.

With Jordan Pickford receiving rave reviews at Preston North End, perhaps Allardyce wanted to see Mannone in action before deciding whether to sell him in January and bring Pickford back.

Mannone’s performance will have strengthened Pickford’s cause.

The former Player of the Year looked nervy, lacking match sharpness – understandable given his lack of game time – and got nowhere near any of the goals.

His positioning was questionable in front of the worst defence in the top flight.

Mannone improved after the break and made two smart saves, including a fine stop from Kevin De Bruyne.

But, overall, his shaky performance won’t have filled Allardyce with any confidence.

And with interest from his homeland, the 27-year-old could be heading back to Italy.

Danny Graham:

Graham was handed just his third start of the season against City, but it wasn’t up front.

Instead, the 30-year-old – who has scored just one first team goal in his time on Wearside – was pushed out wide on the right.

You can’t fault his work ethic but big questions remain over whether he is good enough for the top flight.

He had one chance in front of goal in the first half, a header which he sent wide from a good position.

It was a poor miss and clinical City went on to win comfortably.

Allardyce is looking to free up some wages and with Graham out of contract in the summer, while earning around £40,000 per week, his days at Sunderland look numbered.

Jordi Gomez:

The 28-year-old midfielder has rarely been used and, if his lacklustre display on Saturday is anything to go by, he won’t get a chance again anytime soon.

Allardyce’s central midfield options were decimated, with Seb Larsson injured, Jack Rodwell suspended, Ola Toivonen out of form and Lee Cattermole just returning from injury to make the bench.

That left Gomez recalled.

And he didn’t impress.

Sunderland were second-best to everything, lacking fight and determination to close City’s forward players down, allowing them to dictate play.

No pressure was placed on Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure.

They were given time and space to attack at will.

Gomez wasn’t the only culprit, but, at the heart of the action, much, much more was needed from him.

Standing 10 yards off Toure, to allow him to pick his spot for the second goal, summed up Gomez’s afternoon.

If Allardyce didn’t know it before, he does now. He doesn’t currently have the squad depth or quality needed to keep Sunderland up.

January is going to be pivotal for Sunderland’s hopes of enjoying a 10th consecutive season in the top flight.