Novelty has worn off – Sunderland won’t be ‘fine’ this season

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I wrote in our column a few weeks ago that the novelty of the Championship would wear off very quickly if we didn’t start winning the odd game here and there.

Three defeats on the bounce and one victory so far this season, boos at half time, full time, during the game and at individual players, one shot on target, no game plan other than hoofing the ball to two isolated strikers. Yes, the novelty has definitely worn off.

Jack Rodwell

Jack Rodwell

Football supporters generally aren’t bothered about the level their team is playing at once you’re into the thick of the season, as long as you’re winning games.

Many thought going down would afford us to enjoy games a little more. We’d win a few more. It’ll be fine.

Yesterday was not fine.

The manager tried to tweak things a little, with what appeared to be a back three and a No 10 at right wing back. It wasn’t very good. The back three weren’t tight enough, as was so expertly demonstrated as Clayton Donaldson raced through to score his second.

Jack Rodwell might have scored, but he was hiding in the middle of the park again. I thought Didier Ndong did a lot of work around our penalty area breaking up Sheffield United attacks and tried to drive things on, but there was nothing there. Nobody wanted to take responsibility to get on the ball and make something happen.

We’ve gone two up top and we look absolutely toothless. The fact they’re both big lads means we just hoof the ball up to them at any given opportunity. They don’t win enough aerially and if this is our actual game plan rather than players bottling it then it needs to be addressed by Simon Grayson.

The players brought in during the window do not suggest we’re a team that should be playing with two up top. I’d like to see Jonny Williams at the top of the midfield with Grabban ahead of him, flanked by McManaman and McGeady.

McManaman can come out of the game with credit. He came on and demanded the ball and got at their full back. His final ball was very good too. He must start

on Tuesday night and Grayson needs to have a complete rethink in approach.

I like the back three, but not when it looks like it did on Saturday. We don’t have the players to play that system. Hopefully Oviedo, Cattermole and McGeady come back in to the side on Tuesday. We looked woeful down our left side once more, with Galloway worryingly out of his depth.

We need McGeady’s guile and Cattermole’s grit. The latter might have his critics, but he won’t go hiding when the chips are down.

We’ve started games reasonably well this season and haven’t taken our chances; subsequently we were punished in those games. I felt on Saturday the baby went out with bathwater a little bit.

We must simplify things ahead of Tuesday and we must get a result if any of that early promise is to be restored.