Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Future Looking Very Bleak - Unless Cats Can Find Consistency; THE ANALYSIS: Sunderland Facing Identity Crisis Sunderland Are Enduring Their Traditional Slow Start to the Season and Must Find the Right Balance to Avert a Crisis, Argues Steve Brown

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Future Looking Very Bleak - Unless Cats Can Find Consistency; THE ANALYSIS: Sunderland Facing Identity Crisis Sunderland Are Enduring Their Traditional Slow Start to the Season and Must Find the Right Balance to Avert a Crisis, Argues Steve Brown

Article excerpt

OME red seats have returned.

Sunderland still have the Blues.

Already, a season is beginning to look decidely black.

Again. What a marked about-turn since May 11. Literally. 3-0 to 0-3. Salvation to trepidation. Again...

May's momentum has been checked, a transition not entirely of the club's own doing, and Monday proved perhaps the most sobering yet of stark illustrations of the scale of the task on David Moyes' hands.

Just when the Black Cats appeared in the spring to have located an identity of sorts, winter looms with it all but AWOL - or at least suffering from a crisis of that identity.

Well, OK; crisis might be overdoing it.

Yet if Sam Allardyce eventually created a team which had come to know itself and know its job - a topfour form results-machine, cherrypicking the times and places at which to garner goals and points through defensive discipline and team spirit - this one looks as yet still in search of itself and of a best approach to gathering results.

That is hardly surprising given the turmoil of the summer but mitigation makes it no less worrying. There is a split in the team's personality.

Sunderland showed a touch of front-foot, proactive intent at Manchester City, but lost.

Until the last half hour, they reverted to passive, back-seat type against Middlesbrough and lost again.

Forget Shrewsbury Town and even QPR next week.

Southampton was a bit more like a Big Sam 'smash and grab' until late on and for almost an hour the same might be said of Monday night.

Unfortunately, as one club official noted afterwards, there was another half an hour to go...

This has been Sunderland's problem for some time now.

They are not a 90-minute team, enough of the players rarely perform well for 90 minutes. Not well enough to get consistent results.

Little spells here and there, yes.

Occasionally enough to get a goal but often not sufficiently for that goal to bring a win.

This was why Allardyce attempted to condense the game to contain as little opportunity for chaos, for uncontrollables, as possible and win (or draw) it in short bursts of control in the right areas at the right times. …

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