Manchester City 4 Sunderland 1: Jordan Pickford set for a recall? And five other things learned from a Boxing Day to forget

Sam Allardyce looks on at the Etihad Stadium
Sam Allardyce looks on at the Etihad Stadium
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There was little festive cheer for Sunderland fans at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day.

Making it safely to the North West was the first achievement after the flash flooding across Yorkshire and Lancashire and the nightmare that is the M62.

The majority will have wished they'd stayed at home though after the miserable 90 minutes that followed.

It was always going to be tough against title-chasing Manchester City.

But Sunderland made it so easy for Manuel Pellegrini's side.

Here are six things that we learned from Sunderland's fourth defeat on the spin:

Sunderland were well beaten by Manchester City

Sunderland were well beaten by Manchester City

Mass changes to team backfired:

Sam Allardyce made sweeping changes to his Sunderland side for the Man City game, six in total.

And he has to take a large chunk of responsibility for the defeat.

Why leave Costel Pantilimon out? Why leave Jermain Defoe and Duncan Watmore out of the starting line-up? Danny Graham on the right wing?

The system and personnel backfired.

With Liverpool and Aston Villa to come this week, Allardyce rightly had one - or possibly two eyes - on those vital home games.

But to make so many changes simply gave City a major boost before a ball had been kicked - and one they didn't really need.

Sunderland have regressed defensively in recent weeks:

Allardyce is responsible for the team he puts out on the pitch.

But he couldn't be blamed for the shocking defending in the opening 22 minutes.

Sunderland were all at sea. City tore them to shreds.

David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were both scintilating.

Billy Jones - who was originally named in goal according to the City teamsheet before it was hastily reprinted - and the rest of the back four had a nightmare.

Part of the cause was because the Sunderland midfield simply stood off the City dangermen, allowing them to dictate play and possession.

Jordi Gomez was the chief culprit, while Yann M'Vila looked jaded and was hauled off to save him for Liverpool and Villa.

Sunderland had looked to have cured their defensive shortcomings but in recent weeks they have regressed.

Four points needed - at least - from home games against Liverpool and Aston Villa:

In fairness to Allardyce the defence has been signigicantly weakened by the injury to Younes Kaboul.

He is a major loss.

But there is no time for Sunderland to feel sorry for themselves. They have two massive games coming up.

And four points are a must. Six would be great.

But Sunderland need to take as many points as possible with the points gap to safety showing no sign of getting any smaller, anytime soon.

The return of Lee Cattermole is a big boost. He got some game time against City.

Expect him to start at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.

Team owe fans a performance. Starting with the home double-header:

You cannot fault the Sunderland fans.

Away game after away game they sell out their allocation and give their full backing to the team.

They gave their support even when their side was falling apart in front of them, those that remained even clapped them off at the end.

They deserve much, much more.

And with two home games in the space of four days, Sunderland have the chance to produce the big performance they deserve.

Is Jordan Pickford set for January return?

Of the six changes made by Sam Allardyce, the most intriuging one was in goal.

Costel Pantilimon axed. In came Vito Mannone from the cold.

22 minutes in and he must have wished he was still sat on the bench after picking the ball out of the net three times.

He was nowhere near any of them.

Mannone improved after the break, making two smart saves.

But chances are Pantilimon will be back for Liverpool and there is every chance now that Jordan Pickford will be back from his Preston North End loan spell in January.

He is, after all, the club's future No 1.

It just so happens that may be sooner than we all thought.

Back-to-back goals for Fabio Borini are a reason for optimism:

Highlights for Allardyce & Co were few and far between.

The return of Lee Cattermole is certainly one. The other was Fabio Borini being back among the goals.

Two in seven days against Chelsea and now Manchester City.

Yes, they were both scored when the game was already over.

But two goals in two games can only do his confidence the world of good.

Don't bet against him making it three against another of his former clubs, Liverpool, on Wednesday.

Let's hope it is the opening goal, rather than another sorry consolation.