AFTER the elation from events on Tyneside pre-Christmas, I’m left a little disappointed with what we’ve witnessed since then.
It isn’t alarming; I think we’ll comfortably avoid relegation and Gus is still the man to take us forward in my eyes, but certainly some points have slipped from our grasp in the league.
And even though we were comfortable against Leeds in the FA Cup yesterday without getting out of second gear, some of the same old problems reared their ugly head.
Who has the answers? The solution to really opening teams up?
Most fans prior to the game exclaimed that Giaccherini and Alvarez needed to play. Well, they did play but were we any better?
We controlled the game and created chances, but did we look really threatening?
For all Giaccherini’s industriousness and Alvarez’s sublime touches, there was a creative spark STILL missing.
I’d be amazed if Alvarez starts again any time soon.
We certainly prevailed down the left flank, however, and it’s to nobody’s surprise that van Aanholt’s surprise inclusion improved the attacking options significantly.
If Billy Jones gets shifted back over to the right, and can get himself into to similar positions as the Dutchman, then we could be finally getting somewhere.
We’ve been banging on about the absence of our attacking full-backs on the podcast for weeks, but it was clear to see why yesterday.
Had Fletcher converted that gilt-edged chance from five yards out then we’d have had two goals from the link up between striker and left-back before half-time. We can only be encouraged by that. Maybe I am being harsh, after all.
I just still think there’s still an issue through the middle of the park.
Yes, the full-backs marauding forward will make a difference; Gomez, in particular, loves sliding them into the box with precision passing.
But without Borini’s runs to seek out and, without any real significant pace in any of the forward areas, we’re a little too predictable still.
I repeat, it may seem harsh to say this – if Fletcher had his shooting boots on we’d have scored three or four after all, but fashioning chances by keeping possession and pressing your significantly weaker opposition should be the norm, frankly.
It leaves you wondering what can actually be done in terms of recruitment to solve the issues.
A more imposing forward who takes his chances would be perfect, but every side wants one of those in the modern game.
A powerful, creative central midfielder would be perfect too but they aren’t easy to find either.
Does either addition seem likely?
We need to hope some of the deadwood is removed, that goes without saying.
If not, we really need to hope that the re-emergence of the two attacking full-backs change the entire complexion of the side, like we’ve been suggesting they will.
If not, then the Plan Bs, Cs and Ds need to be looked at. If they’re there anywhere.
* The Wise Men Say podcast is available 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.