THE ‘pack mentality’ of Sunderland’s midfield players has been hailed by Gus Poyet, who says his battlers and scrappers are giving the rest of the team the platform to perform.
He told the Echo: “There have been so many things that I have been about when it comes to my team over the last few weeks.
“But the one that tends to get overlooked is how hard the midfield has worked in tackling, closing down, tracking back and not giving the opposition the chance to rest.
“I thought Seb Larsson, Jack Colback and Lee Cattermole were fantastic against Chelsea but it’s not the job that tends to get noticed too much.
“They were working so hard and hunting in packs to chase opponents down and there were a few times in the game where a Chelsea player got past one but then found himself facing another and if they’d got past him the third one would have been there.”
Poyet says that although hard graft tends to play second fiddle to moments of skill in terms of fans’ enjoyment, it does not go unnoticed by coaches.
“It certainly pleases me!” he said.
“In any team there are key elements you need – you need pace, so you go out and and buy pace, you need power, you need skill, and you can go out and buy them too.
“But every team also needs legs and Seb, Jack and Lee are providing that at the moment – they are getting through so much in games at the moment and their legwork and their willingness to constantly support their team-mates has been a massive help to us in recent games.
“And I love the way that they just get on with it.
“They’re talking to each other and working it out during games - no coaching from us, no arguing among themselves - they are just completely focused on their tasks and that is great to see.
“Against Chelsea they kept a great shape to the team, they worked together as a unit and each of them was always looking to take responsibility.
“That’s great in any situation but particularly in ours when we are fighting to survive and you need players who will battle, who won’t let their heads drop and who won’t give up.”