Sunderland FanZoner Chris Button was a worried man for the majority of the Tyne-Wear derby.
Draw doesn't hide Sunderland's weaknesses
Well, that's a relief. An intriguing derby has come to an end, and Sunderland fans all over can breathe a sigh of relief once more. Not a victory, but crucially not a defeat on home soil. Demba Ba's own goal providing a point after an agonizing 85 minutes of dominant possession but little by way of chances. Neither team has the bragging rights, that will have to wait for the fixture back at St. James', but what have we learnt from the derby?
Cheick Tiote worse than Cattermole? Ok, his sending off was a bit harsh in my opinion, but his disciplinary record is there for all to see. Tiote has been booked 28 times in his last 55 Premier League appearances, the worst record in the league. Ok, I have left out the fact that Cattermole has been booked 28 times in 57 Premier League games, but it does show that Cattermole is perhaps unfairly tarnished as the "dirtier" player. Regardless of the stats, I think Tiote can feel hard done by to be sent off in the derby and a yellow card would have sufficed. The whole complexion of the game changed after that incident and I thought we would push on and turn the tie around. I was wrong.
We had 62% possession in the game, which was hugely boosted of course by the sending off. However to have 1 shot on target to Newcastle's 5 is truly shocking, especially as we were the home team. We should have been in the ascendency throughout and the midfielders really did not perform in this game. Fletcher was feeding off scraps, despite showing some decent movement, but the supply simply was not there for him.
Johnson and Sessegnon were both shut out the game, and McClean failed to deliver many good balls into the box. I concede Newcastle did defend well but I feel they should have been stretched more and Tim Krul should have had more work to do in goal.
The lack of shots at goal seems to have been a theme for a while now with Sunderland and it is no wonder none of our midfielders have scored for us thus far into the season. Fletcher is being heavily relied upon upfront but, although he has had an exceptional start to the season, he can't be expected to carry on this form for the rest of the year.
Sunderland have the lowest shots on target so far in the Premier League this season, and have the joint lowest goals scored along with Norwich and Aston Villa. Steven Fletcher is acting as a one-man band up front doing everything on his own. It is time other players chipped in with some goals to help him out. Sessegnon in particular has been disappointing this season, and it is 18 games now since he last scored a goal, the longest spell in his career to date.
A lot of emotion and sometimes a lack of control are often seen in the Tyne-Wear derby and I was not surprised to see a sending off. Although I do feel the red card was harsh, I welcomed the red like all other Mackems. However the game did not pan out from there as I had hoped. Newcastle played the 10-man game very well, and acted contained and calm under pressure.
They played the counter attack game with Ba being used as the target man and he did well at times to hold it up and bring others into play. Despite the profligacy in front of goal and the lack of a goal threat in the derby, I think these games can always be written off as one-offs and not necessarily depictions of the season overall.
Saying that, I think the team as a whole needs to contribute to our goal tally, and this is something Martin O'Neill will have to address sooner rather than later. I dread to think what would happen if Fletcher picked up a knock. I still feel we should have created more chances and it is a damning indictment of our finishing that Ba is now our second top goal scorer in the league this season!