How Kyril Louis-Dreyfus reacted to Hearts win and a captaincy hint: The moments you might have missed in Sunderland's pre-season win

Sunderland stepped-up their pre-season preparations with a comfortable win at Hearts.

Sunday, 18th July 2021, 10:00 am

Two goals from Aiden McGeady were enough for the Black Cats who put in an encouraging display at Tynecastle.

But beneath the result, there were a host of interesting moments that you may have missed during the game.

Here, we take a look behind the scenes at the win and what may have gone under the radar:

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How Kyril Louis-Dreyfus reacted to Hearts win and a captaincy hint: The moments you might have missed in Sunderland's pre-season win

THE ABSENTEES

Sunderland were without several first-team players at Tynecastle, but all travelled with the squad to the game.

Bailey Wright was left out as a precaution after feeling his groin this week, but was a vocal presence in the stands throughout the game – offering encouragement and praise to his teammates.

He was sat alongside Arbenit Xhemajli, who is continuing his comeback trail from a long-term knee injury.

Luke O’Nien was also a spectator during the game but, unlike the aforementioned pair, was able to play a part in the club’s warm-up.

The fan favourite also took part in some running drills with Nick Allamby prior to kick-off, meaning he can maintain his fitness for a quick return from a shoulder injury.

Also part of the warm-up was Jacob Carney, the young goalkeeper signed from Manchester United this summer.

We’re yet to see him feature for the senior squad this summer, but he continues to train alongside Lee Burge and Anthony Patterson.

THE CAPTAINCY HINT?

With Max Power having left the club this summer, head coach Lee Johnson has a big decision to make when it comes to the captaincy.

Wright is a leading candidate for the role given his relationship with Johnson and the fact he wore the armband last season, but with the Australian absent it was Lynden Gooch who led the side out against Hearts.

The American is the club’s longest-serving player and could be another prime contender for the role given his seniority in the squad – with this perhaps hinting that Gooch is a name in the running.

As he did last season, Johnson is likely to form a leadership group to liaise with throughout the season. Even if the captaincy isn’t handed to the academy graduate, you would expect him to play some part in this.

THE HIGH PRESS

Johnson was honest in his post-match assessment that the side have not yet paid serious attention to their pressing game during the early weeks of pre-season.

But that was not evident at Tynecastle, particularly in the first half where Ross Stewart and Aiden O’Brien put the home defence under some serious pressure.

It worked on several occasions too, with O’Brien spurning a great chance after his pressing allowed him a clean shot on goal from inside the area.

The duo positioned themselves high when Hearts won goal-kicks and it presented the hosts with some real problems during the early stages of the game.

It’s pleasing to see these elements of Lee Johnson’s desired style of play start to emerge – and they were far from the only on-field change that was notable...

THE SET-PIECE VARIATION

This is potentially another area that Sunderland are yet to fully focus on, but the side looked a much greater threat from set pieces during their encouraging performance in the first 45 minutes.

Some of Elliot Embleton’s delivery were terrific – particularly the one which resulted in O’Brien sending an acrobatic effort off the bar – while there was some real variety in how the set plays were delivered.

This was an area that many fans were keen to see improve given Sunderland’s lack of threat from dead balls last season.

The early signs are positive.

THE CELEBRATIONS AND SEND-OFF

The words ‘Aiden McGeady’ and ‘pantomime villain’ were used plenty in the build-up to this game – and the winger didn’t disappoint.

Jeered from the kick-off, the Sunderland wideman was the recipient of heckling from the Tynecastle crowd throughout.

But he will feel he will have had the last laugh.

His opening goal was followed by a salute towards the home support, while he also gave the Hearts faithful a round of applause as a send-off when he was withdrawn in the second half.

But Hearts manager Robbie Nielson could only praise his performance in his post-match media briefing.

“He’s still sharp and has good feet and good movement,” he said.

“He’s done very well for them last season, he came back out of cold storage in January and was excellent and I think he’ll be a big player for them this year.”

THE OWNER’S REACTION

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus watched Sunderland for the first time in pre-season – and was clearly pleased with what he saw.

The club’s majority shareholder was in a jovial mood when he spoke with sporting director Kristjaan Speakman and Johnson post-match.

This is a big summer for Louis-Dreyfus, who will be keen to make a strong impression on the club’s fanbase in what is his first summer in command.

And there is plenty of work still to be done by the 23-year-old and his team, with Sunderland’s squad in need of further rebuilding work.

But the early signs are undoubtedly promising and a win against a Hearts side who were far more advanced in their pre-season preparations will give Louis-Dreyfus and those around him plenty of encouragement.

That will soon give way to turning attentions back to plotting the club’s future though, with plenty still to be done in both the short-term and the long-term.

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