Gustavo Poyet celebrated a significant milestone in his Sunderland career on Saturday, then promised “it’s just the beginning.”
Poyet recorded his first clean sheet and first point away from home in the Premier League as a coach, drawing 0-0 at Aston Villa.
It should have been more, Fabio Borini heading against the crossbar and other good chances wasted, but the Uruguayan’s reaction was one of cautious optimism. Poyet stated upon arrival his priority would be building from the back and when asked if he had seen progress, he replied: “The problem (previously) was when we were good defensively we didn’t play, we didn’t get out. It was a balance.
“At Villa we had the balance much better. We were able to defend but also attack and to create chances. I have a team.
“That doesn’t mean you’re going to win every game but it’s going to give you certain chances.
“Are we good enough? Wait, let’s see, but I want to see the team doing those things week in, week out.
“Then if we continue to do it I’m sure we’re going to be all right. The best teams in the world, normally they don’t concede. They need quality and they need to score but they are organised and difficult to score against.
“If I was the goalkeeper (Vito Mannone) on Saturday I would be delighted to keep a clean sheet without making a great save.
“For a team at the bottom I think it was a very good point.”
It lifted Sunderland’s league position, with Crystal Palace losing at Norwich City, and Poyet believes it will have a similar effect on morale.
“If we are all convinced (of Poyet’s way of playing) we have a better chance, that’s for sure,” he said. “The way to convince the players is performances like Saturdays because I’m sure the players went home and thought, ‘That wasn’t bad today, we defended well.’
“There’s no right or wrong, it’s a different way. If they like it and we get results I’m sure that is going to get better because it’s just the beginning. It’s the first point we’ve got away and it’s nothing. We need more.
“But it’s a good start and a good way of them feeling that we can do it (avoid relegation).
“The teams that do well this month getting points make a massive impact in the league. You go up so quickly.”
There were negatives – Emanuele Giaccherini missing an open goal yards out, Phil Bardsley and Andrea Dossena reportedly rowing in the warm-up and John O’Shea limping through the final few minutes in a way that suggested he must be a doubt for Wednesday’s visit of Chelsea. In each case Poyet focussed on the positives.
“I try to say forget it, it happens,” he said of the Italian’s miss. “The good thing for me is Giaccherini played 90 minutes for me for the first time. He understood what he needed to do and helped the boys in defence which is perfect for him because he wants to play week in week out.”
Poyet did not see Bardsley apparently kick out at Dossena after being caught in the warm-up, but did say: “I like that, if it doesn’t get personal, I like a bit of tension in the team, it’s nice, especially when we are down at the bottom.”
And when asked about Wes Brown’s fitness, he said: “Can he play Wednesday? Yes, I think so, from what I saw. But on Tuesday I need to check I’m 100% convinced. It’s the same with John O’Shea.
“Probably there was a centre-half on Saturday on the bench thinking, ‘I’m not going to play any more here’ but on Wednesday they need to be ready to play against Chelsea.”