Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2: Four talking points

Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2: Four talking points as Spurs close the gap on the top four thanks to a win at the Black Cats

Ryan Bailey
By Ryan Bailey

The only way is up for AVB and Spurs

Having come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks for his managerial style and tactical decisions, Andre Villas Boas was being widely tipped to become the next manager to lose his job. However, six points from two potentially tricky away fixtures has seen the tension alleviated considerably at White Hart Lane. Victory at Fulham followed by this result at the Stadium of Light means Tottenham head into the congested Christmas and New Year period in good form and closing on the top six. They are currently ten points adrift of north London rivals Arsenal but after Saturday’s other results, Spurs have closed the gap on the chasing pack and with Liverpool to come next week at The Lane, there is an opportunity to reduce the deficit further. This performance wasn’t spectacular but any away win in the Premier League is satisfying as Tottenham showed glimpses of the quality they have in attack. There is still plenty of work to do to hit full form but it’s certainly a promising sign that the management, players and fans can build upon for the second-half of the campaign. Not forgetting, their capacity to go all the way in the Europa League, a competition which Villas-Boas holds in high regard. All of a sudden, things are looking a lot brighter at Spurs.

Black Cats in danger of being cut-off at the bottom

Despite all their efforts and endeavors against superior opposition, Gus Poyet’s side come away from two successive home games with no points. And with relegation rivals Crystal Palace picking up maximum points over the same period, there is a danger that the Black Cats could become adrift at the foot of the standings before they know it. Since their victory against Newcastle in October, they have picked up just four points and with games against fellow strugglers West Ham, Norwich and Cardiff to come over the festive period, the next few weeks could prove to be pivotal for Sunderland’s survival quest. With a wretched goal difference to boot, things aren’t looking too promising for the Black Cats with fans in the north-east set for a worrying Christmas if their team’s performance and indeed fortunes don’t change, and quickly.

Lengthy spell on sidelines beckoning for misfiring Soldado

He’s vowed to re-establish the goal-scoring prowess that earned him a £27m move to White Hart Lane in this summer, but Roberto Soldado is likely to have to settle for a place on the bench for the foreseeable future after Jermain Defoe was given the nod for the second game in succession. The Spanish striker, who has scored just four goals this campaign, has paid for his poor form with Villas-Boas opting to deploy Defoe in the lone striker role recently. And with Spurs collecting six points from two away games, it’s unlikely that he will revert to the former Valencia hit-man in place of the club’s leading scorer this season. Although his replacement has yet to find the net in the league thus far and spurned several chances at the Stadium of Light, Defoe looks far more penetrating and potent than Soldado. Villas-Boas’ adopted formation means there is a berth for just one striker and with Defoe seemingly in possession of that shirt presently, it could be a frustrating period for Soldado as he’s forced to watch on from the bench. If there is one silver lining for the 28-year-old, he’s likely to start the Europa League clash with Anzhi during the week, a game which potentially provide him with a better opportunity to score his first goal for over two months and regain his depleted confidence. For now though, the big-money signing will be forced to settle for a place among the substitutes.

Fortune does not favour the poor

Sunderland have now conceded five own goals in the Premier League this season, twice as many as any other side. That statistic alone typifies their season to date. There’s no getting away from the old saying that you make your own luck but fortune has certainly not been on their side. After a bright start, the industrious Black Cats got their just reward through Adam Johnson’s opportune opener but that was as good as it got for the hosts. Although, they are more huff and puff rather than quality, Sunderland would have felt their first-half endeavors deserved more than falling behind to a truly disastrous own-goal. John O’Shea could do little about it but when you’re down at the bottom, those moments don’t go your way. To compound matters, the referee missed Sandro’s clear-cut handball with a quarter remaining as the passionate home fans left more frustrated than disappointed.

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