Malcolm Dawson writes…..I nearly didn’t go today. I’ve got a bad back. But my lift arrived early so I struggled into my socks and shoes and did what Lamine Kone didn’t do and trekked along to the Stadium of Light. I’ve moved a row back this season but the faces from last year were all there and we spent the pre-match minutes inevitably talking about how the events of the close season have put us back into a familiar frame of mind for our first home game of the season. Of the starting XI only Don Vito, PvA and Defoe were left from the line up which had put Norwich, Chelsea and Everton to the sword and ensured another season of Premiership struggle. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to be consolidating ourselves as a top half side. Instead we lined up with kids and other clubs’ reserve team cast offs. My GP has ordered a whole set of blood tests, I’m due an X-Ray in the week to see if he can determine the cause of my pain and has threatened me with a prostate examination if nothing is forthcoming from those. (I think he’s a closet Mag!) In the meantime I’ll let Pete Sixsmith describe his own painful experience (and I don’t mean getting through the multiple roadworks on the A690.)

BOROsoapbox

MIDDLESBOROUGH (HOME)

It’s better than last season. Honest it is. After two games last year we were bottom of the league with three goals scored and seven conceded. This year after two games we are third from bottom with a goal difference of minus two. As one of Comrade Stalin’s apparatchiks might have said: “There may be less wheat but it is better than last year’s. Progress Comrades, progress.”
Like last week there were things that gave some ground for optimism. The new centre half from Chelsea via Werder Bremen, Papy Djilobodji, looked more Kone than Diakite. Januzaj showed some early promise. Gooch worked his wee Californian socks off in midfield. Watmore ran at the Boro defence and caused them problems until he ran out of legs. So on that basis not bad.

However (you knew that was coming didn’t you) the sum of the parts totalled very little. It looked like a team that had been thrown together in the midst of a crisis. There was little in the way of genuine team work. Callow youth does not get you through games like this against opponents who were strong and who knew exactly what their individual roles were.
Duncan Watmore2

What worried me was that the team spirit and the ethos that the players had last season was not there. Instead of encouragement and high fives, there were complaints when a pass was mishit or if a ball wasn’t played correctly. The safety and security that Kaboul, Kone, Kirchhoff and Khazri brought to the table last spring has gone – as Kone will be by the end of the week. Instead we had two young men with little first team experience shoved into key positions. Both had good pedigrees at their previous club but neither looked the real McCoy here as they were hustled out of the game.

McNair played in front of the back four in the Kirchhoff role, but he could not keep up with the pace of the game. He arrived late for the ball, missed tackles and did little to push us forward. Love was little better at full back and looked lost at times, giving the ball away and being caught out of position. Gooch appeared to avoid passing to him in the second half. The idea was to use pace and trickery against defenders who were acclimatising themselves to the Premier League. Watmore provided the pace and Januzaj the trickery. It looked promising for the opening minutes and we had a couple of half chances.

Then a pass from Negredo, a huge beast of a centre forward, sent the Uruguayan Cristhian Struani off on a run. Van Aanholt backed off, presumably intending to close Struani down on the edge of the box. What he did not expect was a blistering 25 yard screamer that fizzed into the top corner of Mannone’s net. It was a genuine contender for goal of the month.
The could not be said about the second one where Negredo, played onside by van Aanholt, slipped past Rodwell and evaded at least two more feeble tackles before setting up Struani for the second. Coming as it did two minutes before the break and ten after John O’Shea had limped off, we looked to be in serious trouble and a real cuffing was on the cards.

Off went McNair and on came Jeremain Lens and that certainly improved things. The Dutchman has not been a great success and there is talk of him heading to Fenerbache to join Dick Advocaat, but he showed his quality here and began to get us back into the game. He was ably assisted by Stephen Pienaar, who had come on for O’Shea with Rodwell moving to centre back.

We had much more of the game in the second half. Both Watmore and Defoe missed chances before Lens put Watmore in. His shot was parried by an uncertain Brad Guzan and van Aanholt was on to it quickly to thump it into the net. We had chances to equalise, but they slowed the game down and it faded away for yet another afternoon of intense disappointment.

Jeremain Lens

So where are we? We are seriously short of players. We have one centre half at the moment, assuming that O’Shea is out for a while. We have three key midfielders injured. Larsson is out until March, Cattermole has a hernia and Kirchhoff is not fit. Khazri and Lens were on the bench and Khazri did not even get on, Moyes preferring to use Asoro for a last hoorah at the Middlesbrough goal. Will Khazri be the next one to leave?

All over the country, supporters of other clubs will be looking at the table and saying: “Here they go again. Can’t make a decent start and will be struggling all season.” I would find it very hard to disagree with that perception after seeing us lose at home to a newly promoted side in our first home game.

It is all well and good saying we need new players, but who? We are perpetual bottom feeders; we lose managers with monotonous regularity.

Players who have been at the club for a short period of time and who have done well, bale out as soon as they can. None of this is attractive to good, solid professionals who are desperately needed to give us some stability. Moyes knows that he needs at least five new men to come in and that the margin of error is so small as to be almost invisible.

Middlesbrough played well and had the kind of players and the stability that we crave. Karanka has assembled a solid squad and I was particularly impressed with Ben Gibson, a quick and strong central defender who should go on to greater things. But be warned. Twelve months ago, Norwich City beat us 3-1 in our first home game and looked the business. They went down and we stayed up. There are 36 games to go…….

To add insult to injury, I returned home to find that the chicken casserole I had placed in the Slow Cooker was burnt to a frazzle – kizzened as they say in these parts. Next time I shall put the bloody thing on Low rather than High so that the cooker matches my expectations.

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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

11 Responses to “Sixer’s Soapbox: Moyes stews as Sunderland get burned by Middlesbrough” Subscribe

  1. smoggie August 21, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

    Tell us again about being delusional Eric 012, you and your 3-nowt lol It wasnt a long way home neither, me and the son in law had a grand day out at your stadium and I think we enjoyed ourselves better than most

  2. Ian_SAfc August 22, 2016 at 2:44 am #

    Middlesbrough didnt dominate at all. They were tidy in possession yes, but two shots, two goals. We should have had at least a point from that game despite a really, really depleted squad.
    I actually don’t think Boro will have it easy this season. They couldnt put Stoke away either.
    But anwyay, back to us. I am totally nonplussed by the lack of transfer activity despite having trimmed the wage bill significantly and got 100m tv money. The likes of CPalace are investing well, but we’re in this bizarre situation with half our players injured, and Short seemingly unwilling to splash out.
    Moyes needs backing. Even Pep would struggle with this squad.

    We did seem to lack energy after a decent start. We need to keep up the intensity. Januzaj was a box of tricks int he 1st half, sadly he was a vanishing act int he 2nd.

  3. vince August 22, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    We looked good 1st half,the better team for me,yet went in 2-0 down.Second half was all us yet we only managed the one goal when we certainily created enough to win the game.
    Not great opposition granted,but with a makeshift team I d say there is still hope, if we get the right couple of signings before the end of Aug.Once we get the other sick notes back we should be getting somewhere near a good enough squad.
    Early days and we should know now not to panic after a first home game defeat.

  4. malcolm August 22, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    I have to feel for Moyes.

    We had a great pre-season which has turned out to be a complete waste of time as seven of the expected starting line up were not available yesterday for various reasons and one was on the bench.

    I have been predicting for ages that Lynden Gooch would be the next player from the development squad to make the first team but the injuries to Cattermole, Kirchhoff and Larsson and the still non signing of M’Vila has forced the manager’s hand somewhat.

    Moyes started with four players who have had little Premiership experience (five if you include Watmore) and no time to gel on the training ground. Add Januzaj and Pienaar to the mix and it’s a bit like Stokes and Cook in that advert for Greene King IPA picking whoever wants to play.

    There were some positives yesterday but that side is nowhere near as good as the one that finished last season.

    Moyes’s statements of the obvious that we need more quality players and that we face another relegation fight seem to indicate that here is yet another manager who has been lured to the club with empty promises.

    I know that the owner has his supporters and he has poured money into the club but I can’t see us progressing while he is in charge.

    • William C August 22, 2016 at 10:02 am #

      In fairness, no-one could have foreseen our injury problems, or to have anticipated the desertion of Kaboul and Kone.

      I think David Moyes is nothing if not a realist, and I still think that if he can make 2/3 decent signings before the window closes, we will have enough to stay up.

      Getting our experienced players back from injury will make a big difference.

      • malcolm August 22, 2016 at 10:14 am #

        “Getting our experienced players back from injury will make a big difference.”

        Of course it will but as Pete says the togetherness and the fight the team showed last year is not there. And rumours are Khazri isn’t happy, Kirchhoff’s short term contract will run out this season. Who’s to say he will want to extend it if he’s offered a longer term deal? And with the club in the state it is in how are we supposed to attract quality players when we can’t hang on to those we do have?

        Perhaps we could not have predicted the Kaboul/Kone situations but there must have been hints to those within the club that this was on the cards.

        I’m in no doubt that had Hodgson not been so ineffective and Sam still been in charge we would have been in a better place. But I sensed he was less than 100% happy with the way things were going even before the England job came up.

        I think Moyes will do the best he can, just like the previous raft of managers have done. In my view the situation we find ourselves in comes as a result of a policy determined from above. From a position of relative strength a couple of months ago we are worse off than we were this time last year. We are going backwards as a club.

  5. Dave August 22, 2016 at 10:23 am #

    I am worried that this season is extremely reminiscent of the McCarthy Premier League season. Instead of buying a few quality players, we are trying to find cheaper alternatives (for Jon Stead, Andy Gray, Kelvin Davies read Paddy McNair and Donald Love). This will not work and we all know it.
    Also similar in that they tried hard yesterday and lost narrowly. This happened continually to McCarthy’s team. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be surprised if we are down by Christmas unless we get genuine quality in the next 9 days.
    What on earth is going on? Moyes must have been given guarantees. We are quibbling over £5m for mVila and £5m for Yedlin yet have spent £6m on McNair and Love, who were both awful yesterday. They may well be good players in the future but they definitely are not now. McNair at least tried hard but could not pass a ball accurately 10 yards. Love was equally inaccurate with the ball and didn’t even seem to try that hard. For only £4m more (and admittedly more in wages) we could have got 2 players who we KNOW are good enough and who want (or at least wanted) to play for us.
    I think Boro will really struggle as we were nothing other than honest triers yesterday and we really should have beaten them, but if we don’t buy and buy big in the next 9 days then we are doomed beyond any doubt.

  6. Chris August 22, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    The infuriating thing for me is, against Man City, we looked like a decent team, and were very unlucky not to get something from the game. Yesterday, was the same old story – a game against weaker opposition (weaker than City anyway) which we’d be expecting to win, at home, and just nothing clicked. The first goal just seemed to sap all confidence. The second was a shambles. Even though we outplayed Boro second half, I don’t think anyone is surprised we got nothing from the game.
    Why is Januzaj suddenly our go-to guy for set-pieces? For two games now, they’ve been terrible. Yes, he looks good on the ball, but the end product is dire. Kharazi must be wondering what he’s got to do to get into this side.

  7. Bill Taylor August 22, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    “It looked like a team that had been thrown together in the midst of a crisis….” well, yeah, kinda. Has the Sunderland squad ever been this depleted? It’s getting to the stage where we’ll be seeing ballboys on the subs’ bench and Moyes listed as player-manager. To add insult to the injury list, we have Wednesday’s pointless (in more ways than one) game against Shrewsbury, the last thing we need. One of the last things, anyway. I don’t care if we win or lose, I just hope we get through it with no one else hurt. Saturday at Southampton… my heart says win, my head says try not to think about it.

  8. KevS August 22, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    A couple of thoughts on some of the comments above. The comment that Love “didn’t even seem to try that hard” – I’m sorry that ‘s just ridiculous. If you’ve got the match recorded have a look at the last 60 seconds where Love puts in two crunching tackles when he’s on his last legs. The lad probably isn’t good enough, at this point in time, but there’s nothing lacking in his commitment.

    With regard to Khazri am I the only one who’s not surprised he’s being left out ? Apart from his wonder goal against Chelsea I thought there were many games last season where he offered nothing, Norwich being the prime example. In pre-season, from watching the games on my laptop, apart from his two goals, again, I thought he did absolutely nothing worthwhile. I thought Lens, due to his attitude issues, was even worse. Seems like Moyes probably thinks the same as he’s started the season with them both on the bench (although, agreed, Lens did improve things yesterday when he came on). I’d rather have Gooch and Watmore in the team any day, although it has to be said if we have to use these two in the team all season, no disrespect to them, we will probably go down.

    As for transfers, I wouldn’t be surprised if we sign no-one else before the deadline. And I’ll certainly be surprised if we sign anyone of any genuine quality … based on the shambolic performance of the club’s management in the last three months. We already have the look of a team that will be this season’s Aston Villa – run by an American who, for some bizarre reason, seems to be running the club down.

    • William C August 22, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

      Kev – I agree with your comments about Khazri and Lens. I have never rated the former, and I just don’t think the latter wants to be here.

      I am very impressed with Gooch, and I predict a big future for him. I’m still so-so about Watmore. Fantastic energy, but doesn’t seem to know when to release the ball. However I prefer him to Khazri or Lens.

      I’m baffled about criticism of Love. I think he has been okay in both games [ Man C and ‘Boro ]

      Contrary to some opinion, I think Pienaar will prove to be a good signing. I would pick him ahead of Khazri and Lens also.

      In the final analysis it is all about opinion. I think David Moyes is a top manager. Others don’t. We will see.

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