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Poyet a defeat away from danger…
by chris thompson

Allow me to begin this article by expressing my fondness for Gus Poyet. With the keep-ball mentality of Peter Reid, the likeability of Mick McCarthy and just a touch of the madness of Roy Keane, he is my favourite Sunderland manager. I'm not saying he's the best manager in my lifetime, statistics would suggest otherwise, but there's something about him that fills me with hope. Unfortunately, if we lose against Crystal Palace on Monday then he faces a situation where both the supporters and the boardroom may begin to turn on him, and that very rarely ends in any way other than the eventual P45.

It's only been two defeats in a row, 6 points dropped out of a possible 114, but a seed of doubt has now been planted and will be nurtured if we continue even one game further down this losing streak. Perhaps if we had started the season better, even an additional win to ensure we weren't in the relegation zone, then the circumstances wouldn't be as grave. With the re-acquaintance of our old pal the bottom three however, as well as the epic 8-0 thrashing, you'd have to consider Poyet's position to be as unstable as any manager's in the league, especially after how well we finished last season, the hope we once held, now dashed once again.

Ironic of course that I mention the word 'unstable' when that is exactly the word which could be used to describe Sunderland AFC over the past three seasons. Unstable in the league and unstable in terms of who is managing the team. Stability is something which the football club needs and stability will be the exact thing we sacrifice if we do part ways with Poyet, and I hope that it doesn't come to that.

An additional threat for Gus comes in the timing of the dip in form. We went on a 5 game losing streak in March and April, but the last thing the club were going to do was sack another manager, you can't have three managers in one season and expect to be taken seriously, so Gus' job was never in danger during that period, and of course by the end of the season his position was untouchable. Now is a different story however; the November period can be particularly tough for a manager. Squad blend can no longer be blamed, nor can lack of match-fitness. Generally if a team is losing during this period then the manager will lose his job, giving the team enough time to pull it around by the end of the season under the guidance of a new gaffer. You all know this, it's just worth remembering. It's all part of the thought process of whether a manager should be sacked.

I'm aware a portion of Sunderland fans have already turned against Poyet, some of which have never been a fan of his, and I think that's unfair given that our two most recent defeats have largely been down to individual errors. However I do see a line of reason behind their feelings. It is of course not only the matter of us letting too many goals in; we aren't scoring enough goals either, and that can often come down to tactical errors or poor player recruitment, which in itself is a situation which lacks clarity. While I am a Poyet fan, I don't think we can simply brush these defeats under the rug and put them down to dodgy back-passes and own goals, Gus cannot escape all culpability.

Looking ahead on the fixture list we have Everton at home coming up, a game which we would do well to take anything from, so we must bear that in mind when looking at the Crystal Palace match. If we win against Palace then there will be no problem and the matter will be put to bed, we can subsequently afford a defeat against Everton, a good side, and it won't form part of a losing streak. If we lose to Palace however, with Everton the next game, then I think our manager's fate will be sealed. The club has shown a tendency not to hang fire on these decisions, and I'm almost certain that losing the next two games would be the end of Gus Poyet at Sunderland.

If our players have any sort of respect for the manager, they will play their hearts out on Monday night, knowing fine well that his job depends on their performance. They must remember that he's the one who saved them from the darkest moments in their careers under Paolo Di Canio, who led them to a cup final and who helped them perform a miracle.

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BLOG - Pantilimon in?…
by David Drewett

Due to his abysmal recent form littered with a number of high profile errors, there have been calls to drop Italian Vito Mannone for Monday’s game against Crystal Palace. The calls have been justified; with Vito’s morale surely at an extreme low a couple of games to rediscover last season’s form can only benefit both him and the club. This presents an ideal opportunity for giant Romanian stopper Costel Pantilimon to show what he can do, especially after his particularly shaky performance in our loss to Stoke.

Pantilimon arrived on a free from champions Man City this summer after making seven Premier League appearances for them, as well as being their first choice in City’s successful Capital One Cup campaign. He even had previous experience playing at the Stadium of Light, in one of Sunderland’s routine 1-0 wins over Man City there.  When he arrived at Sunderland a lot of good things were said; with some fans even arguing whether he should have took Mannone’s no.1 slot right away. Despite this, Mannone’s relatively good form during the early stages of the season restricted Costel to the Capital One Cup, with a comfortable win at Birmingham and an unimpressive Sunderland home debut against Stoke his only appearances so far.

The 6”8 man seemed nervous from the start of the Stoke game, as evidenced by a couple of mis-kicked clearances in the opening 20 or so minutes. Stoke’s first goal was the sort of strike you’d expect to see a Premier League ‘keeper save, and the second came due to his reluctance to catch a seemingly straightforward corner. His display here soured many Sunderland fans opinions of him, and led some to hope Mannone wouldn’t be hitting any bad patches soon. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and Pantilimon now finds himself on the brink of his second real Sunderland test.
Hopefully, Pantilimon will be already fired-up for this game, without the need for a morale-boosting talk from Poyet. He came to Sunderland to play, and this is his second chance to prove he deserves just that: regular football. Play well against Palace and Pantilimon could find himself where Vito was two months ago; as a Premier League team’s first choice goalkeeper.

Sunderland fans love Vito Mannone, in no small part due to his heroics at the back end of last season and in the League Cup. This alone however, shouldn’t guarantee a first team place every week, and a large dip in form and confidence like he’s experiencing should obviously lead to being dropped. Give Pantilimon a game, and with a bit of luck (which we’re due) it’ll massively benefit all concerned parties.

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Gus talks for England (or Uruguay)…
Poyet craic

Right here’s today’s news, guys. After a week of rumoured team changes, Gus Poyet has also said he’ll try to bring in youngsters but only if they’re ready: “If one day – and I’m not saying it for the sake of it, I promise – if we’ve got a player who is 17,18 or 19 and he’s ready, he’ll play. If he can perform in the same way he does for the Under-21s, as he does for the first team, then he’ll play. But it depends on how you’re doing in the first-team. If the first team is doing OK, then you can put people in. But at the moment, no. Robbo [Tom Robson] travelled with us to Southampton – what an experience that was for him. It’s why the cup is perfect. I remember last year when I played Duncan and he was running and the people went ballistic. I wouldn’t be afraid of playing Robbo against certain teams either. There are things he can do, but things he needs to improve too.”

And if they do break through and become a success we need to hold on to them: “You know what happened in the past,” added Poyet. “We need to make sure we do things a little bit better and Lee Congerton and the recruitment system are trying to make things easier and not find ourselves in situations where young players can leave the club. I’m a little bit away from that because even if I go to see the Under-21s, I haven’t been able to see the Under-18s this year. I’m trying. If not, I’ll see them in the FA Youth Cup. But the idea is to keep an eye on them and see what they do.”

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Today's news…
Poyet and PvA craic

Well at least the weather is canny today after the monsoon we had yesterday evening, here on Wearside, Gus Poyet has been talking about making up the goal difference: “When I came to England in 97, goal difference was key and I was thinking ‘what are you talking about? People only care about that in Spain at the end of the season when there’s two teams together to win the league. Here it was very important, positive and negative. Then slowly, we’ve lost that. But it gives you a great indication. If you are close to zero then you should be all right, for sure. Without an 8-0, we would be! If we can get back to zero, then we’re going to be top 10 because you need to compensate for an 8-0.”

Gus has also spoke about the mystery man Cabral: “It looked like he was going to go somewhere, but he’s under contract. I always say that when these situations arise, I don’t think it’s right to make someone responsible. We signed the player for a reason. Then it doesn’t work under the new manager, but you’re not going to put a gun to his head and say ‘leave the football club’. I’m not that type of person. He’s a great lad and a great professional. I’m making the decision that he’s not playing. It’s not his fault, it’s me. Can he go in January? I don’t know. I thought he would have been one of the easiest ones to deal with in the summer. “If he trains properly and is professional, he’s with us, because he’s a first-team player. Now, if there’s anyone - and I’m talking about anyone - that I think it’s better not to train with us, then he won’t. But at the moment, Cabral has been great. He’s been asking to play in the reserves, so why are you going to put him over there (training with the kids)? But that doesn’t mean he’s going to play.”

Patrick van Aanholt has talked about his development and the upcoming game: “I’m physically and mentally improving every week and I am really enjoying it. I am very happy here and it is great to be part of the club. During the last two weeks we haven’t picked up any points but that has happened and we need to move on. The focus is now on going to Crystal Palace and getting three points no matter what. We have got to prepare well and train well because we need to pick up a result over there. They are a tough team to beat but until two weeks ago so were we, so even though it will be a tough game away from home we will go there to get the three points.”

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BLOG…
BY EVE SAYERS

Defence not our only problem

After another agonising 90 minutes on Saturday, it became even more apparent that our team needs a lot of work.

Just how many of our goals this season are self-inflicted? Fair enough, some of the goals we concede you just can’t do anything about but too many come from not closing teams down, not being able to defend set pieces, not being able to clear the ball properly and own goals.
 
It should have been 0-0 against Arsenal but two major defensive errors gifted Arsenal the two goals they needed. A slip from Wes Brown allowed Alexis Sanchez to make a bursting run and open the scoring for Arsenal. If the game ended 1-0, the result wouldn’t have seemed as bad but Buckley’s ridiculous pass back in the box which Mannone failed to clear allowed Arsenal to double their lead in stoppage time.

It would be complimentary to Sunderland to call the horror show against Southampton a shambles, it was much worse than that.  Three of the eight goals conceded were own goals, and another three were absolute howlers from Mannone. Six defensive errors like that from a Premier League side is unacceptable.

But where do we go from here? We drop Mannone and put Pantilimon in against Crystal Palace right? Mannone’s confidence may be shot but I can’t see that helping anything. Our team is threadbare, and our defence is weak. We have one left back in PvA, who is our fastest player. We have three fit centre backs in Brown, O’Shea and Vergini, who is also our only fit right back. With Coates and Jones injured, Poyet can’t do much with the defence.

However, defence isn’t our only problem. In the first half against Arsenal, we didn’t manage one shot on target, which at home in the Premier League is disgraceful. Letting the Borini saga drag on all summer was never going to end well, not brining in a striker was suicidal from Sunderland. Wickham and Fletcher just aren’t enough, and with Poyet not playing 4-4-2 with them our chances of scoring look even slimmer. Jozy Altidore can’t even be considered to help bolster our attacking options; he just isn’t Premier League standard. So we have four strikers at the club, Fletcher, Wickham, Altidore and Graham. Two out of the four don’t even have one Premier League goal for us. It is absolutely pivotal that we buy a striker in January.

Did we over invest in midfield this summer, and under invest in defence and attack? With Cattermole, Rodwell, Bridcutt, Mavaris, Gomez, Buckley, Johnson, Giacherrini, Alvarez, Larsson and Cabral, we aren’t short of options in midfield. Though without Giacherrini and Alvarez fit, we are lacking in creativity and at the moment, Lee Cattermole’s long balls are as creative as it’s going to get. Our set pieces are also a problem; Larsson hitting the first man with his corners or taking them short is mind-numbingly frustrating. Poyet’s adamancy to persist with Buckley over Johnson is also frustrating. Though he has been poor in recent games, I am a fan of Buckley but I don’t know why Poyet hauled Johnson off instead of him on Saturday. Johnson seems to be somewhat of a scapegoat for some of our fans but as our second highest scorer at the club, we can’t take him for granted.

Eve Sayers

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Slow news day…
Poyet on the defensive

It’s ages till our next match which is probably why the news has been slow so far and why we’re still talking about the bloody Arsenal game. Gus Poyet has shown a resolute side of him when asked if he’ll make changes at Palace: “It depends. I think it’s a long week. It’s going to be an even more difficult week than last week. When you lose two games in a row it’s tough. You need characters. I’m realistic, there’s nothing you can do apart from keep believing, continue to convince the players and pick the right team. We can debate if Jonno (Adam Johnson) needs to play or doesn’t need to play, or if Vito Mannone needs to play or doesn’t need to play. That’s my decision. The results will determine if I need to be here or not, but I’m not worried about that because I know what we have done and what we can do. It’s just the quality and the momentum which we need to change. Away from home, we’d been good. People are talking about clean sheets and we kept a couple – one in the cup as well. We were all right.”

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Mistakes galore…
Poyet, PVA and Johnson craic

Well the Arsenal post-mortem is still in full swing and Gus Poyet has not held back: “I thought until last week that we were a very difficult team to play against. I think on Saturday we showed glimpses of that. But we couldn’t get away from the mistakes. We made too many last year. We scored too many own goals. We’re still conceding too many own goals and still making too many individual mistakes. That part of it we didn’t improve at all (over the last year). It’s still there. It’s still inside the group, the club whatever you call it. That’s something I haven’t improved. Is that my mistake or responsibility? It’s up to you to judge. From last year against Arsenal here, seven players who were starting for Sunderland are not at the club. Seven. You want to know which ones? Westwood, Celustka, Diakite, Roberge, Colback, Ki, Vaughan. They are not here. Nine of the starting XI of Arsenal are still in their squad. That’s the difficulty we’ve got. We’re always starting from zero. How can you have a consistency and a way of understanding the game and an understanding of when and how to pass? It’s impossible. You are always catching-up. You need the momentum. You need that thing to start it. Three weeks ago, we were complaining we hadn’t won in the league and then we won that (Stoke) game, which apparently was the most important fixture of the season. And then the next two games are the worst two.”

Meanwhile, Patrick van Aanholt is trying to remain upbeat: “We’ve just got to move on, keep our heads up and look towards Crystal Palace. We’ve got a whole week now to focus on Crystal Palace. We just need to get a win and stick together. If you mistakes like that in the Premier League, it’s a goal straightaway. We’ve got to learn from it and focus. We trained all week and forgot about what happened last week [at Southampton]. We tried to move on and get the three points, but unfortunately we didn’t get them. We went inside at half-time and said let’s just move on. In the second half we were much better, we started well, got forwards more and a couple of times we were unlucky with that final ball. It was very disappointing. Two mistakes cost us two goals and cost us the game. We had to get over the first one and try to get back in the game as soon as possible. In the second half, we did very well in trying to get a goal back. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Everyone makes mistakes but we’ve just got to move on now.”

Adam Johnson, has also thrown his thoughts into the mix, just concentrate on your crossing please, Adam: “Maybe when we know we have to do it, we do it - I don't think it's a crisis point,” said Johnson. “Arsenal are a very good team and we gifted them two goals, it was as simple as that really. We've got to go to Crystal Palace next week and try to get a win. We're quite confident as a team it's just the mistakes that are bringing our confidence down. It's so difficult when you're conceding goals like that to lift yourself and carry on. I thought we did that. Our shape was good and we defended well. It comes down to if you give goals away against top teams you're going to get punished.  “Palace is against one of the teams around us. I know we want to try to win against every team but anything you get against Arsenal is a bonus. I wouldn't say you don't expect to get anything but if we hadn't given two goals away we would have got something. If we can beat teams like Palace and Stoke – which we did – we'll be fine. Then you just try to pick up points against the big teams. “It's very early still. There's probably half the Premier League in a relegation battle at this minute in time, probably more. The likes of Southampton are very high at the moment, but three defeats in a row and you're in there anyway. We need to start picking up points and hopefully be pushing away from that. We're all gutted as a team, them especially. When you make a mistake like that it affects you after the game but Wes Brown has been around for years now and Vito was our player of the year last season. It will obviously be hurting them because it's cost us the game but we need to get over these things and not give gifts away in other games. You've just got to quickly put it behind you. I think you've got to forget about it. You can't change it, can you? So let it go. You've just got to move on and try to do better.”

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poyet gutted…
players angry

Gus Poyet believes that despite a brave performance, individual mistakes cost us dearly against Arsenal and led to the defeat. I agree! Gus said: "Today we needed to run, fight, defend and react from last week, and we did practically all of that except for forgetting to leave the mistakes behind. Even if we didn't create enough we were always a team on the pitch who were difficult to beat, but today we made two terrible mistakes and we lost the game. We need to put that into a win as soon as possible for people to relax and be able to express themselves."

"We had to defend for 15 minutes because Arsenal were in possession, but they were not creating which was good for us to get stronger and get through the first 20 minutes. Then we started going the other way, especially with Buckley, creating problems on the left side by getting crosses, corners and free kicks into the box. However, then we conceded the first goal which was proper knock to the team but we held it and were a little more experienced, with the senior players controlling it better before going into the second half with the attitude of getting back into the game. Unfortunately we made another one at the end which summarises our time right now in the league."

"It's difficult to analyse the game because the commitment, the reaction, the desire, the organisation - compared to last week - was there. But we forgot to leave the mistakes in the dressing room. I don't know if it is tiredness, I don't know if it is tension, I don't know if it is bad luck - whatever you want to call it - but unfortunately it was two mistakes. You need to watch it to know [what went wrong] really. I don't like to accept them, but I have to. Can I train it [to avoid a repeat]? No I don't think so. I don't think those actions are trainable. I think there's a bit of anger in the dressing room really because when you know the team, the group, was there and they responded and they tried, they really fought hard for the result, and then two actions...Normally it takes you I don't know how many games to make one of those mistakes, and yet we made two in the same game and that was after last weekend. That's what has put us in the situation where we are, really."

Will Buckley also echoed Poyet's sentiment, only he admits that the post-match atmosphere was not enjoyable at all.: "Overall I didn't feel the performance was too bad – Arsenal are a top class team. The mistakes cost us in the end and we're disappointed overall that we lost the way we did. Tempers were running high at the time but we were angry because we know we're better than that. We need to move on and put in a better performance next week. We needed a reaction - against a top team we had to give it everything and we did that today." I'm glad tempers were running high; at least they care!

Despite the disappointment, Buckley is ready to take on Crystal Palace: "It's going to be a tough game but we'll be ready for it. I've played there a few times and it's a good atmosphere. At the end of the day we've been beaten by Arsenal; we know we could have been better on the goals but we need to move on quickly to the Palace game."

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on the defence
als blog by melanie dudley

A cheeky beer in the Half Way House, it felt like the fans were pretty upbeat and optimistic that we may sneak a win. So, we headed to SoL and took our seats, Dance of the Knights vibrating through the stadium, I felt excited, nervous and mildly terrified of what may unfold.

I felt at least through the majority of the game, most of the players seemed to want to be there. Arsenal are certainly not at their best and they controlled the majority of the game. I would of been OK to leave with a 0-1 defeat, however, the 2nd goal felt like a kick in the teeth. Clearly, Mannone was furious, I get it was poor, however, he should have cleared it.

Our defence is simply shocking, if Arsenal had been on form, we would have received a right royal spanking.

Rumours of crossed words in the dressing room are hardly surprising, they must pull together as a team, take the criticism on the chin and move on. Anyone that seriously talks of "get Gus out" is naive, yes, it's not great right now, however, he is one of the best things to happen to our club for a very long time. Knee jerk reactions of outing the manager would simply paper over the cracks.

We move onto Palace which will be a tough game, but, we have over come greater for sure!

I still have faith, in Gus I still trust...

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post Arsenal craic…
REACTION

Sunderland were beaten 2-0 at home by Arsenal in a game which, granted, was a huge improvement from our last game, but what wouldn't have been? Two goals from Alexis Sanchez was enough to see off a Sunderland side desperate for a reaction after their last outing, but it was not to be.

Despite the defeat, Gus Poyet believes that his team played their hearts out. He said: "I'm sure everybody will comment on the two goals but we tried hard, the players gave everything. We did not create enough but you cannot concede goals like we did today. It's a long week after two defeats but we've got plenty of time to make decisions. There is no other way other than to keep working, convincing the players and trying not to make mistakes and hopefully try to win a game. We made it difficult for Arsenal apart from the goals. I wanted to see the players today, to see them be brave and pass the ball and I think they were close. We didn't make many mistakes in the first seven games but in the last two games we made more than you expect in the whole season. We need to put that right."

Meanwhile Poyet has revealed his role in the recruitment of players after continued uncertainty, unhelped of course by the comments by Paolo Di Canio that he didn't choose any of the 14 players who arrived under his tenure. Gus admitted: "I've got a yes or no on a player. Every player who comes here, I agree. There is no-one among the ones we signed in the summer that I said 'no' and the club said 'yes'. That doesn't mean I choose every single player. Let's not be naive. There is a working system, a recruiting system where we look at players and look at options and, from those options, we're going to pick one or the other. (Fabio) Borini and Marcos Alonso were easy for me. They were my picks. They are not here, but Buckley was my pick and he is here. That was no recruitment system, it was me. But that's how it works in any other place."

Poyet also acknowledged that sue to the Di Canio debacle, he must be wary of passing blame over transfers: "Look, I know that normally it sounds very negative and I understand why because of what happened in the past. But I'm just trying to be honest and say I'm the head coach. It sounded like 'don't blame me now' but I was saying that when Billy (Jones) was fit and when Sebber (Sebastian Coates) played against Stoke that we were short. What I said was that I don't want eight players at the back, I want seven. We started the season with six. I'd have been contradicting myself. Now it's easier we've got one more."

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