Sunderland do not believe in doing it the easy way, do they?
The Black Cats had a chance to move out of the bottom three on Saturday.
Anyone tuning into the various phone-ins on the wireless on Saturday could be forgiven for thinking Sunderland had been relegated.
But those hopes were shot to pieces before it even got dark as Marko Arnautovic’s double and Peter Crouch’s free header put Stoke three goals up inside 34 minutes.
Jermain Defoe pulled one back, but it ended 3-1 with the Black Cats dropping a place to 19th. So what did we learn from Saturday?
Not doomed yet:
Anyone tuning into the various phone-ins on the wireless on Saturday – and there are no shortage of them – could be forgiven for thinking Sunderland had been relegated.
According to the table this reporter looked at the weekend, only 21 games have been played and it’s a 38-match season!
Sunderland are one of the favourites, but it looks a case of three from seven for the relegation places, from Watford in 14th (23 points, minus 13 goal difference down to basement boys Swansea (15, minus 28).
There is still a long way to go, though you would not want many more afternoons like the one Sunderland endured.
Boss treading a fine line:
Saturday was bad, in fact it was dire. David Moyes was honest in identifying the horrific errors which helped Stoke on their way to victory.
But he stopped short of any withering assessments.
The boss has very few selection options – the XI he is sending out is basically all he has, so he has to tread a fine line with them.
He can’t really slaughter the players, certainly publicly, because he needs to keep them all ‘onside’.
Moyes can’t risk alienating any of them as he needs to get everything he can out of them. But, on the flip side, they must give everything.
PVA: To sell or not to sell?
That is the question. Moyes and his superiors may have a quandary over Patrick van Aanholt.
From the outside looking in, you would call selling a good player to a relegation rival as folly. However, Saturday’s defeat highlighted the need for the Black Cats to strengthen.
Sunderland can’t sell their two most saleable assets, Jordan Pickford and Lamine Kone, because if they did, they would go down.
But should they cash in on van Aanholt, Moyes would have upwards of £10million to spend.
PVA would be missed – going forward, he provides an attacking dimension – and it would mean sticking a square peg in a round hole, one of their right-backs, Billy Jones or Javier Manquillo, would have to go in there. But Moyes may see it as a necessary evil.
No room for passengers:
What is the saying about ‘it’s not the size of the dog in a fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog’?
Adnan Januzaj needs to show some of that. There is no doubt he has skill and pace, but on Saturday there was precious little of that, or anything, from the Belgian.
He spent much of the game going to ground – and complaining when he was not awarded free-kicks – while he also shied out of a challenge or two. That is not acceptable.
Van Aanholt was not shy to give him a verbal volley late on and you can’t blame him.
It’s all hands on deck at the Stadium of Light and, sadly, Januzaj’s effort did not match his footballing excellence.
Get your subs on:
Forgive me for repeating this subject for the second successive Monday.
Against Burnley in the FA Cup, Moyes made only sub, John O’Shea, and there was no criticism he was brought on. But the boss did not change any forward players.
And on Saturday, he kept all seven subs on the bench.
At 3-1 down to Stoke and with the aforementioned Januzaj and Fabio Borini so ineffective, what did Moyes have to lose in bringing on one of his young prospects?
He could have even brought on sub keeper Mika for Januzaj and he wouldn’t have done worse.
A bit of youth and vigour, whether it was Asoro, Embleton, Honeyman or Maja, may just have been a moment of inspiration in a display lacking inspiration.
What great fans:
If the two defeats to Stoke City this season had one common theme, it’s surely the performance of the fans.
At the Bet365 Stadium, the away end sung to the bitter end as the Black Cats lost 2-0.
In the return fixture, the home team were terrible. Yes, there was a sizeable Stadium of Light evacuation when the third Stoke goal went in.
However, the majority stayed and gave terrific support, including a few blasts of ‘David Moyes’ red and white army’.
The fans remain behind the side, and manager, at home and away, if the players can match the passion from off the pitch, surely they have a chance on it?