Wise Men Say: Don’t Panic! Sort the strikers out and we’ll be okay

Sunderland striker Connor Wickham fouls West Ham United defender James Tomkins. Picture by FRANK REID
Sunderland striker Connor Wickham fouls West Ham United defender James Tomkins. Picture by FRANK REID
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THIS was supposed to be the game where we kicked on; where we started turning these draws into wins.

What the game actually told us was we’re severely lacking in the forward areas. Although most of us already knew that.

They’re some things you need to factor in, of course. Football is never straightforward. West Ham are flying and full of confidence, some of the doom merchants want to bypass that fact, but a relevant fact it certainly is.

As with Manchester United, Everton, Spurs and Swansea – who have also drawn at the Stadium of Light this term – they won here last season too.

We should’ve had a penalty in the second half, and though the actual penalty we did win was soft, two wrongs don’t make a right and all that jazz.

And Jozy! That chance wasn’t quite as easy as some are making out – your blind gran wouldn’t have scored it, but a Premier League striker should have done.

Whether it was the timing of the run, or the lack of ability to improvise and make some sort of contact on the ball, he really should have done better.

If there’s any doubt, just look at his reaction. It really does say it all.

I’m not sure he’ll recover from it.

Elsewhere, for all Adam Johnson’s sublime touches and composure on the ball, both his lack of acceleration and the absence of top quality players around him, make his contribution less effective than it should be.

That’s not to say I’m having a go at the player who won the penalty, far from it, but his situation highlights our struggles going forward. Just missing a little something.

On that note, Gus Poyet may have to think about starting Ricky Alvarez soon. Having him as an impact sub seems like a logical and bright idea, but, in reality, we need players to start having an impact from the beginning of the game.

It always seemed likely that a winning goal would come from his involvement on the right-hand side of the pitch once he was on. Whether or not a derby game – next up on Sunday – is the environment to make that call is worthy of much debate.

We know that Gus likes to set up a certain way and influence a game later with subtle substitutions, but it would be nice to be able to do so by having a commanding lead before turning to someone like Liam Bridcutt to help see it out. That would be a very welcome scenario.

But there’s no need to start panicking, and you can call that delusional all you like. The prospect of Emanuele Giaccherini and Alvarez on the field together yields some realistic hope for some much needed creativity on the break. As does the return of two attacking full-backs.

If we were in Leicester’s position, with no key players to return, I’d be worried.

But we aren’t.

We’ve witnessed many a relegation side over the years and, frankly, this one looks streets ahead of them.

After last season’s breathless campaign, with polarising patches of form prevalent from the turn of the year, this time around we really did need some steady and calm.

Nice, easy game next week anyway.

STEPHEN GOLDSMITH

H The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.