Sunderland bounced back to winning ways with a thumping demolition of West Ham at the Stadium Of Light. Here is what we made of it.
What The Manager Said
O'Neill was positively beaming with pride after what was easily the most fluent attacking Sunderland display of the season. He told the official site:
It was a great performance from start to finish.
We got started early and put them under pressure.
Larsson opened the scoring in an emphatic style with a thunderous left-footed shot in the 12th minute.
Seb's was a magnificent strike. I think it was vital for us because we were dominating proceedings at that stage and just looking for the breakthrough and when it came, it came in great fashion.
Our second goal very important, we were 1-0 up at the break and I thought we should have had more. West Ham were looking dangerous.
[Adam] Johnson's goal came at an important time and then the third one killed it off.
I think the players have had a lift with Alfred coming to the football club and they had a renewed energy.
Four league wins out of seven is very good for us, we've a long way to go but there's plenty to digest and enjoy after that result.
The team are buoyant and now we look to the game with Bolton, it's a great chance for us to progress in the FA Cup and we'll take it head on.
In this feature we have often lamented conceding soft goals at crucial times, but it was nice to be on the other end of it for once. Johnson's goal nipped any possible West Ham comeback in the bud before it even started.
I don't think I can remember a player's perception fluctuate so spectacularly between overrated and underrated than that of David Vaughan. The truth about his overall ability, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. He is a good player, and always has been.
Against West Ham, however, he was very good. In fact he completely dominated the midfield and ran the show and that is something we haven't been able to say about a Sunderland player often of late.
Does it suddenly make him a world-beating answer to all of Sunderland's midfield problems? Clearly not. It does prove quite unequivocally that he has been a heavily under-utilized option so far this season, though.
Attacking Trio Gelling Nicely
It has taken a while but the attacking midfield trio of James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon, and James McClean finally look like they are beginning to gel. They have all had their individual moments - sporadically - this season but this was perhaps the first time they have looked like a genuine unit.
There have been reasons for the delay, in fairness. Adam Johnson, a perennial substitute at Manchester City, needed to be brought up to speed with the physical and mental demands of weekly Premier League football. Stephane Sessegnon, meanwhile, suffered an untimely pre-season injury, and James McClean was looking like an exhausted wreck.
It was telling that two of the three goals (ably aided by some quite immaculate hold-up play from Steven Fletcher) involved fine work by all three players in unison. It is coming together, slowly but surely.
What A Difference O'Shea Makes
Titus Bramble's performance has rightly been praised but the influence of John O'Shea can not possibly be understated either.
It was perhaps a risk to rush him back into the fold following injury but you can see why that risk was taken. The calming authority that O'Shea can bring to the likes of Titus Bramble is clear for all to see.
I have just about abandoned all hope of him ever steering clear of niggly injuries for long, but I defy anyone to not appreciate him when he is on the pitch.
As for Bramble, that was a nice reminder of what he is capable of when - and I mean this in the nicest possible way - he has a babysitter next to him.
It is difficult to really make any judgment on Alfred N'Diaye based upon 10 minutes against a beaten team, but he definitely made an impression.
His sheer size is truly impressive, for one thing, and he looks far more than a simple defensive midfielder the way he was stomping around all over the place like a Godzilla who has just found half of Tokyo in bed with his wife.
He won't be available for the cup game, so O'Neill made the right call in leaving him in the bench for this one. All staring him would have done is necessitated needless chopping and changing over the next couple of games. Sure his chance will come before too long, though.