Two steps forward followed by one backwards is better than the other way round.
That is about as polite as I can be about Sunderland’s performance on Saturday.
Self-examination is always better than panic. Only one of the last five displays has been awful, so let’s not throw too big a wobbler.
For the sake of mental health, it’s best not to even think about the ten games before that.
However, after the fairly weedy defeat to Arsenal on October 29, Sunderland were eight points from safety with the gap widening by the week.
It was at this point that my friends and I held a top level meeting by the radiator in the Dun Cow. We decided that if a deal could be done with Fate whereby Sunderland were still in touch on New Year’s Day, then we would take it.
Sunderland are now two points from safety with four games to play before that date, so things haven’t been too bad since Arsenal.
None of this exonerates the knock-kneed farrago we witnessed in West Glamorgan; when yet again, unremarkable opposition was made to look far better than it really was.
Perhaps the most galling aspect of the afternoon was that it only took one silly penalty to end the contest, which had been even until that point. The other two goals were almost immaterial because Sunderland capitulated as soon as they went behind.
This sort of defeatist lethargy is entirely down to the players. But which players should have been on the pitch?
The defensive set-up at Anfield was the correct approach and, although that game was lost the tactic was vindicated by the post-match huff of Liverpool’s manager.
But, to put it mildly, Swansea are not Liverpool. They were bottom of the league on Saturday morning and for 51 minutes we could see why. Why was Sunderland’s starting 11 not equipped to take advantage of this?
To have gone for a win but only draw would have been perfectly acceptable. Actually playing for a draw was not. Aside of N’Dong, Pienaar and Denayer playing poorly; they are all holding midfielders (Denayer is really a defender) and unlikely to terrorise Swansea’s defence, drippy though it is, even on a good day.
The selection of all three was purely negative.
Adnan Januzaj was introduced at 2-0 and was dreadful. When a 21-year old is called upon for a mere 35 minutes of football, tenacity and perpetual motion are expected of him. What we got was uninterested ambling when he wasn’t near the ball – and nothing of note when he was.
You’re not at Manchester United now Adnan. You’ll have to get the ball yourself from time to time.
This lack of motivation is even more aggravating from someone we know could be a great player with more application and less sulking.
But at least we can understand why Januzaj was brought on. The real answers-on-a-postcard-please substitution was the introduction of Javier Manquillo on 85 minutes.
Manquillo is a full-back, but as no defender was withdrawn he was instructed to ... er...
We’ll have to get back to you on that one. But surely Sunderland have not sunk so low as to strive for damage limitation against Swansea.
Hanging on to a three-goal deficit is not really the inspirational call-to-arms we were hoping for.
When the third goal was conceded, 10 minutes plus four added remained. It is highly improbable that anything David Moyes did would retrieve a point.
But when your only hope is a miracle, then a miracle is what you must try to effect.
A few minutes from Fabio Borini, missing since August, would have at least given the fans something to be pleased about. And we have to wonder why Moyes bothers to even put Wahbi Khazri on the bench when we all know that he won’t be getting off it.
Against Chelsea tonight and Watford on Saturday it is essential that Sunderland play like they did against Leicester, when the champions, who have since demolished Manchester City, were flattered by the scoreline. Swansea must not become the norm again.
Was Leicester really only 11 days ago?