Two 2-0 defeats in a couple of days – where does that leave Sunderland? The short answer is in 7th place on 27 points, but with a long injury list, and a surprising lack of form from the strikers, who have been collectively misfiring. No excuses from Steve Bruce, just some puzzlement from the manager about the fixture pile-up at this time of year (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/9325148.stm), which is understandable in the current injury crisis. Now there are new injuries to Onouha, Weleack and Gyan, aside from the 7 players listed as injured and suspended in my last blog 5 days ago. The only good news on the injury front has been the return of Titus Bramble during the Blackpool game and David Meyler to the midfield in the last 2 matches.
Sunday’s game at Man. Utd. was one of complete dominance by the Reds, and Sunderland were very fortunate to come in just 1-0 down at half-time. The Black Cats mustered their only shot on target from Zenden in the last 10 minutes, after Berbatov had made it 2-0 with a deflected shot. Overall this was a game where Sunderland could just not get hold of the ball, but to their credit they overall they kept their shape and spirit well.
Tuesday’s game with Blackpool at the SSOL was in complete contrast, even though the result was the same - such are the vagaries of football. Sunderland had over 30 shots on goal and 16 on target in front of a home crowd close to 43,000. They were stopped from gaining a deserved win by the amazing form of Kingson in the Seasiders’ goal, some luck from the visitors and a lesson in finishing by Blackpool striker DJ Campbell.
One wonders what the FA Officials who decided that Sunderland should play 5 games in 13 days are on! There is no doubt that Blackpool with their Bloomfield Road postponements came in to this game fresher and hungrier, but the overall impression the fans went home with was that the Black Cats’ strikers on whom we normally rely for goals had not digested their Christmas puddings, and were way below par. We have come to expect at least a goal a game from one of Bent, Welbeck and Gyan, and Bruce needs to ensure a rapid return to form for the strikers ahead of Saturday’s visit of Blackburn Rovers to the Stadium of Light.
Every team has a bad patch in a season; look for example at Chelsea who are just emerging from theirs. There is no way that the Black Cats have become a bad team overnight, so let us hope it is a 2-game bad run and that normal service is resumed as soon as possible!
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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