GUS POYET revealed after Saturday’s goalless draw at Villa Park that his rejigged team selection had been aimed specifically at getting Sunderland among the goals.
The head coach sprang a surprise when he made three changes, with Fabio Borini, Craig Gardner and Andrea Dossena coming in at the expense of Adam Johnson, Jack Colback and Ondrej Celustka.
But Poyet explained that if they hadn’t scored for Sunderland previously in their careers, the players involved on Saturday all knew what it was like to score a goal in this division. “I’ll let you into a secret,” he told the media afterwards.
“I have spoken about it already, but perhaps I shouldn’t have: I played every single player here who has scored for us in the Premier League this season.
“Every single one.
“If you think about who scored for Sunderland today, it was Craig Gardner. Disallowed I know, but he has scored for us already this season. So has Steven Fletcher, Fabio Borini, Emanuele Giaccherini, Seb Larsson, even Phil Bardsley.
“But Ki has scored Premier League goals and John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Andrea Dossena.
“Every single player who was on the pitch for us on the day has scored in the Premier League – so we were looking for goals against Villa, I can assure you of that.
“It might have surprised a few – the selection – but there was a reason for it – there’s always a reason, right or wrong.
“And it nearly worked on the day.”
It should have worked, it would have worked, but Emanuele Giaccherini missed the sort of sitter from close range that every footballer dreads.
“He’s so sad Giaccherini right now,” smiled Poyet, with an air of resignation.
“He doesn’t stop thinking about it and saying ‘sorry’ to us and to his team-mates.
“But that’s football. It happens.
“The main thing is for us to perform for 90 minutes and we did that against Villa.
“Away from home sometimes we have been good on the ball, even with 10, but not very good at defending.
“We were really bad in the first half at Hull with 11 men, but then really good with nine defending – there has always been something missing.
“But at Villa I think, overall, we defended well. We could have had a goal or two because we created some good chances and we also played the way we wanted to play.
“Now though, I want to see that from the players every week – we have to set that as our standard because it is clear that we can play at that level, keep a clean sheet and get something out of the game and also be good enough to win it.
“If we do play that way, we will win enough games.”