Are Sunderland AFC in crisis? A run of 4 defeats, littered with defensive errors that we were punished for, does not make good viewing on SAFC TV. These defeats have not been good for the team’s morale, and especially after the way The Lads played against Stoke and Spurs, games we could and should have won. This run would dishearten any outfit, and it is time for the leaders on the field to stand up and be counted. The trouble is that leaders like Cattermole and Turner are injured.
What Steve Bruce as boss would do in normal circumstances is rotate the squad, make some changes to freshen things up a bit, but with the current injury list, that is not easy. I read a report in the Sunderland Echo that Bruce is considering Colback for a start, which would give him a chance to shine in midfield in the absence of Welbeck, Campbell, Cattermole and Meyler. The last few games have led the supporters to ask “How do the new signings Sessegnon and Muntari seem to be functioning in their new team?”, and 4 defeats tell their own story. Not that these new midfielders have played badly, and if Sessegnon’s shot against Everton at Goodison on Saturday had actually gone in instead of being pushed onto the crossbar, the game would have been very different...but something seems to have changed.
Going back exactly 34 years to the season of 1976-77 in the top division, Sunderland were on a bad run, 13 games without a win including a run of 8 defeats, and the club’s management team decided to blood some young players. These turned out to be club legends Gary Rowell and Shaun Elliott, and this is how that particular experiment went:
11/2 Lge BRISTOL CITY H W 1 - 0
19/2 Lge MIDDLESBROUGH H W 4 - 0
22/2 Lge WEST BROMWICH A H W 6 - 1
5/3 Lge WEST HAM UNITED H W 6 - 0
The team played with liberty and a new-found confidence with these new young players in the team, and the results were dynamic. For details see the excellent Stat Cat site: http://www.thestatcat.co.uk/Mseasons/MSG98.asp
Winning is a habit and losing can certainly become one. Psychology is so important at this level and when the team was on its earlier great run it was as if we:
A) Did not expect to concede goals and
B} Knew were going to win.
We are missing Darren Bent, maybe not the person, but at least his goals, even though he has only netted twice for Villa in the Premiership. Hopefully when Campbell and Welbeck return we will have some more on-form strikers. Fortunately the story that Asamoah is wanted by Man City is not Gyan – we don’t want to give out signal as a club that every player has his price, even though Darren Bent went when he did.
The goals given away at Goodison were again poor. What better place to turn things around than at the Emirates vs. Arsenal? The defence will have to stand firm, though, and with the Gunners having had a lot on their plate recently with two major games each week, who knows?. We are all looking for an improved performance from The Lads. Nobody wants mid-table obscurity, or worse...
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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