Analysis: Sunderland need cultural shift in corridors of power

Loic Remy scores for Chelsea
Loic Remy scores for Chelsea

Even when the perspiration of the relegation sweat-box had evaporated, Dick Advocaat did not bring out the pipe and slippers.

Advocaat’s touchline remonstrations with both his players and the fourth official were laced with so much aggression that there was even a chuckle from Jose Mourinho at one point in the second half.

The most damaging departure could be Dick Advocaat himself.

If this proves to be Advocaat’s final game in management, then he wanted to continue doing what he has always done – win.

Whatever happened at Stamford Bridge though – and Sunderland actually produced a pretty decent performance – was meaningless.

Their work came at Arsenal last week.

But while the final day of the 2014-15 campaign can be swept under the carpet, the previous nine months of another season of miserable drudgery – other than the derbies and this last month – CANNOT be.

It is not simply a case of Sunderland surviving, needing to buy a couple of players and appointing a new manager, whether that be Dick Advocaat or A.N. Other this summer.

There needs to be a cultural shift in the corridors of power at the Stadium of Light to prevent the pattern of mistakes.

Just as importantly – if not more so – there needs to be a vast improvement in the club’s recruitment record. Sunderland cannot afford to persist with squandering Ellis Short’s millions.

Sunderland need at least one new centre-half, they need a midfield creator and above all, they need pace, pace and then some more pace in the final third.

There will have to be departures too, both in offloading those not up to scratch and those not getting a game - categories which applied to several of those who featured yesterday.

After finding himself confined to playing second fiddle following last year’s Player of the Season accolade, there have to be question marks over whether Vito Mannone will depart, particularly with Jordan Pickford emerging from Sunderland’s academy.

Mannone didn’t do himself any favours on his first Premier League start since October’s defeat to his former club Arsenal.

The Italian had dealt with Chelsea’s pressure well during the opening 45 minutes, but was badly exposed positionally for the first of Loic Remy’s brace after taking a needless small step to his left.

While the defending in front of him was poor, Mannone wasn’t great for Chelsea’s third either after failing to make himself big in that Peter Schmeichel starfish position.

At the opposite end of the pitch, Steven Fletcher thankfully ended a goal drought which has dragged on for seven months and provided some excellent passes and lay-offs during the first half.

But then Fletcher should have levelled within seconds of Chelsea taking the lead after sending a free header wide of the mark from eight yards out.

It’s those kind of misses which have hamstrung Sunderland all season.

If Sunderland can bank a few quid from the sales of both Fletcher – entering the final 12 months of his contract – and Mannone this summer, and re-invest it, then it wouldn’t necessarily be a blow to the club’s prospects.

The most damaging departure could be Advocaat himself.

In just two months, he has restored some of Sunderland’s mojo. He has made supporters proud again after witnessing performances where players are clearly bursting every sinew for the badge.

Yesterday’s game epitomised the positive changes which have developed since Gus Poyet’s departure.

A fantastically well-drilled team shape where a hole is immediately plugged when one player goes to press, a defensive resilience and an urgency in getting bodies forward into the opposition penalty area.

It resulted in Sunderland arguably enjoying the better chances against the Premier League champions, with Jermain Defoe going close on a couple of occasions and Patrick van Aanholt wasting a promising opening, aside from Fletcher’s moments.

Had Sunderland boasted that extra splash of quality in their ranks, they could easily have extended their five-game unbeaten run at the business end of the campaign.

But that is the challenge for Sunderland now.

Stay or go, Advocaat has laid the foundations for a much brighter future.

Now the club needs to provide the fixtures and fittings.