Wise Men Say: Sunderland built platform at Liverpool to push on in festive flurry

Sunderland's Santiago Vergini deals with the threat of Liverpool dangerman Raheem Sterling
Sunderland's Santiago Vergini deals with the threat of Liverpool dangerman Raheem Sterling
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BY the reckoning of many Sunderland fans, a hard-fought point at Anfield should be the final chapter of this constant hard-to-beat nonsense.

It brings to an end a run of games where a sole point from each looks positive.

Has this season’s approach been nonsense? Or just plain logic?

I’ve heard it all over the last few weeks. There are those who think football is about having a go and if that comes at a cost of a loss then so be it. That Burnley and Leicester were there for the taking and the extra four points on offer would’ve cancelled out losing against some of the bigger teams we’ve held to a draw.

Then there are those who think we’d have lost each and every single draw we’ve had by taking some sort of gung-ho approach. That regardless of how laboured the season has been, to be on a point-a-game after 15 isn’t bad going with the sides we’ve faced at the Stadium of Light. That the manner of being hard-to-beat is better than being erratic and can only help be a solid platform for future team-building.

I’m with the latter, I have to say.

There was something very satisfying knowing that we were likely to get a point just 20 minutes into Saturday’s game. Manchester City got in behind our defence quite early into Wednesday night’s game and that proved to be a tell-tale sign.

But, just like Chelsea last weekend, Liverpool never really looked like bearing fruit when going forward. Less so than Chelsea, in fact.

You can sense when the Sunderland players have it sussed quite early.

You can only admire the work and preparation evidently implemented on the training ground to make it so.

It’s quite remarkable to think that we have a makeshift back four looking so solid, with two very important full-backs still to return.

People raised their eyebrows at Lee Cattermole’s absence from the side, but it became clear after Everton that we had two adequate performers in that important midfield anchor position.

You’d have to ask why Bridcutt is there at all if you aren’t prepared to play him after two really tough games for Cattermole in a week.

He was excellent too.

Something we would all agree on is this lack of cutting edge we have in the final third. It’s been said that much it’s almost repeated like some sort of parodied pundit talk, but it’s true.

Jozy Altidore did fine on Saturday without offering anything to get really excited about, and Connor Wickham is starting to look a lot more accustomed to the front left position that Fabio Borini mastered last season.

But there’s clearly something missing. Yet I’m prepared to be patient.

Ricky Alvarez looks like he has something to offer and I was disappointed we couldn’t find a way to isolate him with Glen Johnson further up the field. Whether he or Giaccherini can be the creative spark we need is anyone’s guess at the moment, but it appears to be where our hope lies.

What is clear is that the players believe in their manager and have a clear plan when they take to the field, so, whether you’re on board with the ideology or not, that has to better than setting up in a certain way and basically winging it. You need to have an element of control from the start.

So, regardless of how you view Sunderland’s season so far, we’re all in agreement that there should be a run of games from now which there are games to be won, especially at home.

We can hopefully sit back and judge Poyet’s master plan from here on in.

At the end of this particular dreaded trio of games, we’ve salvaged two points. Anyone would’ve been happy with that prior to the (then) runaway leaders arriving on Wearside last weekend. Surely?

* 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.