Although the season is just one game old, the manner in which Sunderland collapsed to a 4-2 defeat on Saturday will surely leave Dick Advocaat concerned.
The way Leicester City managed to slice through a disorganised Black Cats defence time and again with little resistance was reminiscent of the hammerings against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Southampton last season.
Sunderland may have managed to muster two goals themselves and were unfortunate not to take an early lead, but that should not be allowed to paper over some defensive fissures that allowed Leicester to waltz into goal scoring positions on multiple occasions.
Individually, Younes Kaboul looked a solid and capable performer, especially given the lack of football he’s had in recent months.
Sebastian Coates however, looks worryingly slow both with the ball at his feet and when caught on the turn. If he was brought in as a youthful replacement for John O’Shea, then he showed little to suggest he is any more mobile and Sunderland’s captain will surely be reinstated next week.
Not that Coates was the only offender, with Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt putting in abysmal displays in the full-back positions. Van Aanholt was given a torrid time by Riyad Mahrez and when the Dutchman has a bad day defensively, it tends to be a problem. So it proved on Saturday as Leicester created multiple chances from their right hand side.
O’Shea’s return to the side, assuming it happens, would hopefully help solve some of the organisational issues at the back, whilst also alleviating Lee Cattermole of the responsibility that comes with him wearing the captain’s armband. For such an important leader at the club, the captaincy seems to weigh heavy on him. The Teessider is a better player when he’s left to focus on his own game.
Without O’Shea on the pitch and after Cattermole’s early removal to allow Sunderland to go 4-4-2 with Steven Fletcher coming on his place, Adam Johnson took the armband. This was a huge surprise for a number of reasons, not least because the winger hardly has the air of a leader.
Again, given everything that has gone on of late and with some of the chants aimed at him during the game, perhaps giving him the captaincy wasn’t the best of ideas.
Looking around the rest of the team, part of the problem is a general lack of leadership. Perhaps Kaboul, despite only just arriving at the club, would have been the most logical choice. Sebastian Larsson as a senior, experienced player offered another option, but his inability to impose himself on the game alongside the once again woeful Jack Rodwell hardly made him seem like great captain material either.
Hopefully Yann M’Vila will prove to be the sort of imposing player we were led to believe Rodwell would be but even with him to come into the side Sunderland really need to bring in another player who can create chances because as things stand, another tough season lies ahead.