It was a familiar tale for Sunderland this weekend as another lackluster performance in the Premier League was registered, this time a 0-0 stalemate at Stoke City. Here is what we made of it.
What The Gaffer Said
Martin O'Neill was keen to play down the significance of another draw. Speaking to safc.com, he said.
In a game where there weren't that many chances I thought we were worthy of the point.
But it was tough. Like every game we've played in this season, we were presented with problems that we've had to overcome and I think we're getting there.
I'm happy with the point after the way the game transpired. Stoke is a difficult place to come to.
I know we're racking up a number of headlines with the draws, but there'll be a point where those draws turn into wins.
Today's point could be a vital one come the end of the season.
When you're away from home, not losing is the priority, it's a point on the board and we need to keep going and build on that.
I am somewhat torn by the reaction. Much of it I agree with, but I can't help but think of a broken record. I can accept that away from home the priority is not to lose. That is how you build a run. But my question to O'Neill would be: Are we doing enough to try and win.
Right now, I am still happy to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one, but that won't be the case forever. (MG)
Cattermole Upside Clear
I think we are all happy to concede that Lee Cattermole is a player that comes with limitations and a certain element of risk. This was a day in which he proved his upside, though.
It has always struck me that whilst the national media and fans of other clubs can't want to dismiss the Sunderland skipper as a talentless liability, you seldom hear a bad word said about him from the local press, his managers, and his own fans. You know, the ones who watch him every week rather than just see the odd back tackle on Match of the Day.
At the Britannia he closed down exceptionally well and ensured that the shape of the side was maintained, as well as distributing it with the kind of efficiency he is rarely given credit for.
This was another occasion, in case anyone still needed one, that showed that Sunderland's central midfield area is very much a case of Lee Cattermole and another. If he is available, he has to play. (MG)
Rubbish, But Only Half Rubbish
There are obvious concerns about the attacking element of our game. It is still not clicking and attacks look awkward and disjointed. How big a concern it is I suspect we'll have to wait a month or so to find out. The next few games should provide ample opportunity to assert ourselves - considerably more so than the last few - so whatever problems may be there will certainly be laid bare.
But one area in which we have nothing to worry about is what we are doing without the ball. We may actually be the best team in the division in that respect. O'Neill has the side well-drilled, resolute, organised, and very tough to break down.
Okay, it's not singularly conducive to entertainment. It is, however, a seriously sturdy platform upon which you can build something. (MG)
Context, Context, Context
This is a point I have tried to make previously but it still stands and it is worth repeating. On the face of it, a dour goalless draw against lower half opposition isn't something to write home about.
But we should probably be quite happy with that point at The Britannia. None of the top four or the European champions were able to claim a win there last season and Manchester City and Arsenal have already failed to take three points home with them from the Potteries this term.
Suppose what I am saying is that much better teams than Sunderland customarily struggle to win away to Stoke, so we shouldn't be too harsh on the lads. (MG)