Sunderland Home Drew 1 – 1
Under Ronald Koeman, you were usually aware of what the team were trying to achieve, even with changes to formation. This season, we’re told there’s supposed to be some sort of diamond shape to the business end of the pitch, which suggests a single striker, and, against Sunderland, Austin was chosen for the role ahead of Long – yes, it does seem crazy, but there you are. What goes on in the ‘fat’ bit of the diamond is more of a mystery, and on the evidence of this latest game, the players seem unsure as well. A bright opening gave stand in keeper Pickford a couple of decent strikes to contend with, but after that you felt that the visitors were the more likely scorers, despite being second best in terms of possession and territory. The best chance in an unremarkable opening period came when a tall player was matched with Soares – the situation that had given Watford their goal, but happily Kone missed. Long eventually came on for Tadić to change, or maybe confuse, things, but Saints seem to expect something suddenly to open up as they pass the ball around outside the box, and even unfancied outfits like Watford and Sunderland haven’t fallen for that. All was seeming safe enough at the other end, but it was the Black Cats who made the breakthrough from a situation that highlighted more failings: with ball in hand, Forster couldn’t find the easy distribution that he’s used to, so opted for the long punt upfield… last year, Pellè would have been a decent target, but Saints no longer have that luxury… neither do they have Wanyama to sort out any danger if the ball comes loose… Sunderland easily sent Lens away, and his low cross gave Defoe the chance to hurt us – no change there as he won a penalty from Fonte and smashed in the spot kick himself. Saints picked themselves up to finish strongly, mainly because their substitutes (Long, Ward-Prowse and Rodriguez) were more effective than those whom they replaced (Tadić, Højbjerg and Austin). Rodriguez forced a save from Pickford before trying his luck again with another pot shot, and indeed his luck was in as the ball went under the Young England stopper for a late equaliser. We’re told that Jay Rod may be on his way before the transfer window; we must have something special lined up ourselves if a goal-shy team can let a proven striker go.
LSSC Man of the Match: Steven Davis, but he could be more effective with better tactics.