It is unlikely that anyone needs, less still wants, a recap of Sunderland’s last game. But you shall have one anyway.
Manchester United were hardly wonderful, but still ambled to a comfortable win as the home side failed to score.
You could have knocked me down with a nine-ton backhoe when that happened. It just goes to prove that in football, anything can happen. This includes events that are quite obviously going to take place. Sunday’s result was about as unpredictable as the past.
In fairness, Sunderland didn’t do too much wrong (relative to the rest of this season). Their opponents have gifts that they can’t match even in a good season (whatever that is), as exemplified by United’s first goal.
There was bad luck too. Bryan Oviedo had been the best player until his hamstring fell off. Then there was Craig Pawson’s plainly wrong decision to send off Seb Larsson (drivel on the subject from Keown and Kilbane notwithstanding).
However, it’s difficult to make the case for a home win being upended by bad luck.
It was the usual. They just aren’t good enough. But what is being done to compensate for the lack of talent? What cunning strategy do the club’s coaches and tacticians have in store this weekend?
The plan for most of this season seems to have been to just plod on and see what happens; although this ingenious Napoleonic scheme has yielded little success thus far.
It reminds us of an idea from Blackadder for victory in Flanders in 1917.
To wit: “Doing precisely what we’ve done 18 times before is exactly the last thing they’ll expect us to do this time.”
Different approaches are seldom tried at Sunderland. Even with nothing to lose; nothing is risked.
Why, for example (and there are many, many examples), was a third substitution never made against United? Surely if all you can do is clutch straws – then you clutch them.
It takes an awful lot for a change to be made in Sunderland’s line-up. True, Victor Anichebe was brought in for Fabio Borini. But how badly did Borini have to play – and for how long – before he was finally given the hook?
Even in the midst of the current desperation, most changes have to be enforced ones.
Larsson’s presumed suspension leaves Sunderland with the option of replacing him with Wahbi Khazri.
But the likelihood is that being umpteen points behind fourth bottom and failing to score a goal for 70 days (91 since a home goal), will not be considered as any sort of basis for giving a chance to an attacking midfielder. Why change a losing formula? That way lies madness.
No, best to shove Jason Denayer back in the middle; because we wouldn’t want the ball to move forward.
The ten players to start against United who aren’t called Jermain have banged in five entire goals between them this season.
So tracking back remains the top priority.
What do you reckon instead then? Keep West Ham quiet for 88 minutes then hit them where it hurts?
Doing what your opponents least expect can be hugely beneficial. Yet, not only will West Ham probably face something that everyone expects on Saturday, the chances are that they also look forward to it. Licking their slavering lips.
I am acutely aware that none of this has really mattered for some time now. But wouldn’t a victory this week make you feel a little better, no matter how meaningless the three points would be?
Oh well. There is some good news.
This will all be over in another 39 days.