Sunderland Analysis: White Hart Lane pain’s so cruel on outstanding keeper Jordan Pickford

Lee Cattermole gets to grips with Dele Alli as Sunderland defend in depth at Tottenham yesterday. Picture by Frank Reid
Lee Cattermole gets to grips with Dele Alli as Sunderland defend in depth at Tottenham yesterday. Picture by Frank Reid

Jordan Pickford was warned when he took over as Sunderland number one after the injury to Vito Mannone that he could expect to be a busy man.

The promising England Under-21 international probably didn’t expect he would be this busy, though.

Pickford made his Premier League debut at White Hart Lane last season, he picked the ball out of the net four times that day.

But he was busier yesterday afternoon.

Tottenham Hotspur were relentless, with Sunderland camped in their own half for much of the 90 minutes.

A total of 31 shots were peppered at his goal, eight of which he saved, 15 were off-target and the rest blocked by the equally-busy defence in front of him.

The one he didn’t save proved to be the winner.

Harry Kane didn’t need a second invitation to slide home the ball at the far post just before the hour mark.

The goal was in no way Pickford’s fault. No, the blame lay squarely at the feet of £8million summer signing Papy Djilobodji.

The former Chelsea defender had a night to forget against Everton last Monday, with Romelu Lukaku tormenting Sunderland in a devastating 11-minute spell.

At White Hart Lane – Sunderland’s final league visit before Spurs move to brand new surroundings next door – he was again responsible for some rank bad defending.

In the same movement, he spectacularly failed to control and then clear the ball, with Kane moving quickly to grab the three points.

It was a gut-wrenching moment for the Sunderland fans, tough for the rest of the defence who had worked so hard up to that point.

But it was just plain cruel on Pickford. The Washington-born 22-year-old is playing his part, it is up to the others to play theirs.

Djilobodji looked steady against Southampton last month, although it was concerning that Moyes admitted the 27-year-old still needed schooling in terms of positional play.

Against Everton and now Tottenham, his errors have led to points being dropped.

It would be no surprise at all to see him taken out of the firing line and either John O’Shea or Jason Denayer brought into central defence.

Denayer had an afternoon to forget too.

Drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Patrick van Aanholt, who was withdrawn for “medical” reasons after the warm-up.

It seemed an odd decision at the time and Moyes’ reasons post-match that it was medical, but he wouldn’t be elaborating, raised more questions than answers.

Either way, it left Manchester City loanee Denayer at right-back, facing Heung-Min Son. Denayer probably wished he had been left on the bench.

Son was easily the best outfield player.

His constant running, energy and quick-feet caused Denayer and others no end of problems.

It was a really tough afternoon for Denayer on his full debut for the first team. The late switch also meant Javier Manquillo was then switched to left-back.

Having no doubt worked on a defensive system to best counteract the Spurs threat at the Academy of Light, the late reshuffle was the last thing Sunderland needed.

Spurs sensed blood and they were rampant from the off.

Sunderland, with the added experience of fit-again Lee Cattermole and Steven Pienaar, barely had a sniff in the opening 20 minutes.

In that time, Pickford had already made a superb reaction stop to deny Kane at his near post, had got down low to deny Mousa Dembele, while also denying Victor Wanyama and a header from Toby Alderweireld.

It took until the 22nd minute, but Sunderland finally forced Hugo Lloris into a save, Pickford picking out Defoe with a huge kick. But Lloris down low to save.

Sunderland fought their way back into the game, with the experienced heads keeping them in the game – as well as the gloves of Pickford.

The impressive Son hit the post seven minutes before the break, with Pickford, for once, beaten – Adnan Januzaj’s half-hearted challenge in the build-up left a lot to be desired.

Despite Spurs’ dominance, it was Sunderland who came closest to opening the scoring, Pienaar’s weak effort cleared off the line by Kyle Walker.

That was the chance. And Pienaar fluffed his lines.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with Spurs dominating possession, but Sunderland doggedly hanging in there.

Spurs’ pressure finally resulted in a goal just before the hour mark – Kane doing what he does best.

Kane was the difference, but it was Son who had caused Sunderland problems, with makeshift right-back Denayer struggling to contain him.

Son had a penalty appeal waved away, with Djilobodji judged to have won the ball after sliding in.

Pickford then superbly tipped away a Lamela effort before Sunderland were reduced to 10 men.

Januzaj, earlier booked for dissent, shown a second yellow for a late challenge on Ben Davies.

It capped a tough afternoon.

There were some positives. Pickford was outstanding. Ndong’s full debut was promising, with the 22-year-old adding energy to the midfield.

But Sunderland need much more than that from their club record signing. Time will tell whether it was money well spent.

Sunderland, for much of the game, also looked much more organised.

They just had to deal with a constant barrage of pressure from the home side.

One of the main problems facing Moyes is the supply line to Defoe is almost non-existent. He isn’t even feeding on scraps at the moment.

The upcoming back-to-back home league games with Crystal Palace and then West Bromwich Albion are critical fixtures.

Both hit four goals at the weekend to bolster their own confidence, after less than impressive starts to the season.

Sunderland already have no time to waste.