The Sunderland debacle

I’ve had better afternoons. That would probably serve well enough on its own as my summary of AFC Bournemouth’s defeat at home to lowly Sunderland this weekend - but it perhaps doesn’t help completely explain how the game was something that could prove to be a turning point in our season. And not a good turning point.

To lose 2-1 at home to a team that’s rooted to the bottom of the league and without a win this season is bad enough after all, but to then add in the fact that they had ten men for a third of the match might help go some way to explain how much of a damaging loss this could turn out to be.

That’s not to say we were the poorer side of course - David Moyes claiming they ‘deserved’ the three points is as laughable as Didier Ndong’s barnet - but the fact we couldn’t bury even one of the many chances we had over the course of the match was a huge concern. These weren’t mere half chances either, but fully formed chances jumping around begging to be converted.

If one of our many shots or headers wasn’t dropping just past the post it was instead saved by the impressive Jordan Pickford - with his one handed save from Josh King’s volley near the end being a particular highlight. Or lowlight, from my point of view.

The game was horribly reminiscent of our home match against Newcastle United last season in fact, where we were also comfortably the superior side but somehow still contrived to lose. Sunderland were better than The Magpies in terms of fight and team spirit - but not by much, and it hurts deeply to lose to a side I still think are destined to struggle all season. This was a great chance to notch three points before a tough run of fixtures against Stoke City, Arsenal, and Liverpool - and now we’re left in real uncertainty as to where we might finish this campaign heading into the international break.

Before Middlesbrough away we looked like we could be a solid mid-table outfit, but now we’re nervously looking over our shoulders.

So how has this happened? Well there are several factors, but the main ones are obvious in my view. The first is that this side doesn’t seem to know how to deal with teams that play with a slightly defensive mentality. We’ve matched and even bettered sides such as Everton and Tottenham Hotspur who have come to the south coast to win - but when Sunderland visited and employed their delightful brand of time-wasting and gamesmanship we simply couldn’t cope. Middlesbrough also played a conservative game at the Riverside and ended up beating us as well.

If you then pair this with one of our most obvious flaws you’ve got a recipe for a disaster – with this weekend ample proof of this. I talk of course, of our lack of killer instinct and ability to take chances. Our occasional overplaying around the box doesn’t help, but it’s our lack of natural finishers that really cost us on Saturday. Josh King is a bustling and hardworking unit up top, but has never been a striker that can finish consistently – and Benik Afobe looks completely drained of confidence at this moment in time. With Callum Wilson in the squad (he was injured) I doubt we would have lost this weekend.

Discounting our 6-1 romp against Hull City we’ve scored just seven goals in ten games - which is nowhere near good enough if we aspire to be anything more than relegation battlers.

So we have two weeks off to put things right, as there’s no doubt that we’re in a bad place at the moment. This current group of players has always proven they can react well to setbacks however - and they’ll have to prove it yet again when we travel to Stoke City later this month.