Fulham Loss Deflates Sunderland Ahead of Southampton Trip

It was the most bored I’ve ever been during the close season, simply for the fact that Sunderland had signed so many players I’d never seen play.

Saturday’s Premier League opener gave us the chance to see Emanuele Giaccherini, Valentin Roberge, Cabral, Ondrej Celustka and, returning to the division, USA striker Jozy Altidore.

Despite the 1-0 defeat, it would be harsh to say that the Black Cats played poorly. The first-half in particular saw plenty of deft approach play, although like much of last season under Martin O’Neill, the final ball lacked penetration and the team were unable to build on that momentum.

Altidore was the most impressive of the new arrivals, working hard and turning several bad balls from his team-mates into decent deliveries. The overall fitness of the side has gone up a number of notches as expected under Paolo Di Canio, and it showed in the way the team looked to make the Stadium of Light pitch bigger with every opportunity.

There is no doubt that Di Canio will continue to play in this way, with full-backs encouraged to push on and wingers told to attack opposition defences quickly. But Saturday’s game showed yet again that a ball-playing midfielder who can supply the ammunition for the likes of Altidore and the soon to be fit Steven Fletcher.

Not since Steed Malbranque forged such a good link up with Darren Bent have the Lads had such a pattern of play.

The Fulham defeat should not provide cause for panic, as mentioned there were positives. Three wins can be achieved from visits to Southampton and Crystal Palace and at home to MK Dons in the Capital One Cup next week before the international break comes, but with a daunting set of fixtures lying ahead folllowing those games, Di Canio’s charges will have to gel, and quickly.

Southampton v Sunderland kicks off at 3pm on Saturday.

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