SAFC Analysis: Small but important step in right direction for Sunderland

Jermain Defoe celebrates his leveller against Swansea yesterday
Jermain Defoe celebrates his leveller against Swansea yesterday
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It’s easy to blindly nod the head as the manager rants and raves, while the eyes are secretly glazing over.

But when Dick Advocaat’s players gathered on the training pitch at the Academy of Light seven days ago, they were clearly paying attention.

The players were even sufficiently concerned by Sunderland’s start to the season to hold a discussion amongst themselves later on in the day.

They proved at the Stadium of Light yesterday that those discussions were not simply hot air or empty words.

At the third time of asking, Sunderland produced in 2015-16 with a performance which was chalk and cheese from the feeble efforts served up in the opening two games. What a difference it makes to see some energy, commitment and intent.

We all know that Sunderland need more investment before the end of the transfer window, although Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila showed more than enough to suggest that they have fulfilled Dick Advocaat’s remit of “quality” summer signings.

Regardless of Ellis Short’s much-needed communication with supporters, he can’t be blind enough to realise that the club cannot afford to go without two or three more captures of that standard.

But regardless of the transfer activity, it still didn’t excuse the manner of Sunderland’s performances in the opening two games after they were so dreadfully below anything acceptable..

Sunderland have now set their standards. Regardless of the quality of their play, this has to be the benchmark in terms of pressing the opposition, covering the ground and playing with some tempo to get the crowd going.

The return of John O’Shea was key in offering Sunderland a solid defensive platform that they hadn’t boasted in the previous two games.

Sebastian Coates was back to the form he showed at the end of last season alongside O’Shea, while Patrick van Aanholt was far less of a liability.

Don’t underestimate the impact of the other two players who came into the starting XI either.

Danny Graham set the tone up front in charging down Swansea’s defenders, while, on the quiet, this was one of Jack Rodwell’s best performances in a Sunderland shirt.

Rodwell constantly marauded around the middle of the park to prevent Swansea getting their passing game going and never faded into anonymity, as has been the case too often since arriving at the Stadium of Light 13 months ago.

With a splash of fortune, Sunderland could have come away with all three points, although they admittedly required two excellent and one world class save from Costel Pantilimon.

But while Sunderland’s problems have not suddenly been solved in one afternoon, this was an infinitely more encouraging step in the right direction.