Poyet must stop the rot
When a new manager comes in, results tend to get better before things eventually level off and the sub-standard performances which forced a managerial change quickly return. This is something Gus Poyet has come to realise recently and needs to arrest before things become much, much worse.
December 13th, 2013
Prior to home defeats against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, everyone had the realistic expectations that one win from the two would be fantastic. A point in each would be pretty good, and a solitary point not the end of the world.
Alas, we walked away with none and find ourselves in deep trouble as a result.
It wasn’t so much the 3-4 defeat at home to Chelsea which stings. I actually found that to not only be a very decent game to watch but also saw Sunderland valiant in their attempts to continually come back from adversity. Certainly there were plenty of positives to take.
All of those however were completely undone in the game against Spurs.
Gus Poyet has established a style at the club. There’s a clear and defined way of playing football. Some of the current crop of players fit in and other don’t at all. So why Gus abandoned his own philosophy which served us so well in recent weeks and months to shoehorn in such players I have absolutely no idea.
The shift to a 4-4-2 of sorts was absurd. We’d done so well with the 4-3-3-come-4-5-1 hybrid which saw patient and incisive build-up play introduced and long ‘hoof ball’ eschewed.
Players who can do well were exposed horribly. Ki Sung-Yeung is a classic example. In a 4-5-1 in the ‘quarterback’ role, he’s magnificent. In a 4-4-2 he’s far too lightweight and incapable to get the time and space he needs to operate at his best. The job isn’t made any easier for the Korean with an equally weak Jack Colback alongside him.
I like both players a whole lot, but neither are at their best in a two-man midfield. An extra body is always needed to account for the lack of physical strength.
More baffling than this, however, was the inclusion of Steven Fletcher alongside Jozy Altidore.
It might seem a little bit mad for someone who supports and covers a team bottom of the league to bemoan the inclusion of a striker who cost the club best part of £12m, and has scored numerous vital goals in the past, but his partnership with the big American Altidore has been a proven failure from Day Dot under Paolo Di Canio.
In the press leading up to the two home games Fletcher expressed that if he was given service, he’d get the goals. Against Spurs he had plenty of touches and tended to lose possession cheaply rather than put the ball in the back of the net.
There remain a couple of positives headed into Christmas and January though.
Our incredibly tough run of home fixtures is over now, and we have a very winnable set of fixtures coming up which will define our season.
If we are to show we have genuinely turned a corner, Gus Poyet will have to be a little hastier to press the big red panic button and go back to the basics he himself installed in the side and served us so well.
We’ve got more than capable players to get us out of this mess in the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini, Adam Johnson, Jozy Altidore, Wes Brown and Ki Sung-Yeung to name but a few. Now it’s up to the Uruguayan to make sure he does the right thing to get the best of those key men.