The Agenda: How will Sunderland react to their Capital One Cup defeat?

Bouncing straight back from a League Cup final defeat has not been easy in recent years, but Sunderland have no time to wallow in theirs

Michael Regan/Getty Images Craig Gardner of Sunderland looks dejected with team mates after the Capital One Cup Final
Craig Gardner of Sunderland looks dejected with team mates after the Capital One Cup Final

There were plenty of hangovers in the Wembley stands last Sunday. When Sunderland return to action at Hull City seven days later they cannot afford any on the pitch.

When it comes to League Cup finals, recent history shows one defeat generally leads to another.

Only three times in the last ten years have the runners-up been able to win their next match.

One of those came against lower-division opponents.

Failing to bounce back with victory need not be terminal to a team’s season – Liverpool recovered to win the 2005 European Cup and Aston Villa reached an FA Cup semi-final and qualified for Europe through the league in 2010.

Last year Bradford City slowly shrugged off their hammering by Swansea City to secure promotion to League One via another trip to Wembley in the play-offs.

The trouble for Sunderland is their next game is of huge importance.

Premier League survival may be a far higher priority than FA Cup success in the Stadium of Light boardroom (if not on the terraces), but the Black Cats have 12 games to secure that. In the FA Cup, every chance could be your last.

Lose to Hull at the weekend and the “treble” some were fancifully talking about this time last week – League Cup, FA Cup and Premier League survival – will have turned into a single mission in the space of seven days.

Sunderland could quite conceivably be one from bottom of the division by Monday and, while they will have games in hand to do something about that, three straight defeats is not much of a platform to fight back from.

If the immediate effect of a League

Cup defeat tends to be damaging, in the longer-term it can be more mixed.

The worst-case scenario is something Samir Nasri was very conscious of last week. Twice in the last ten years, the wheels have come off Arsenal’s season after losing the first cup final of the English season.

Nasri, whose brilliant second goal with the outside of his boot all but decided this year’s final, joined the Gunners a year after the dramatic 2007 defeat to Chelsea, but was in the side surprisingly beaten by Birmingham City four years later.

It was a game which did neither side much good in the long-run.

“It can be a good start for the rest of the season but I have the experience with Arsenal,” the now-Manchester City midfielder recalled in the build-up to last week’s game.

“We got to the Carling Cup final and lost – and, after that, we won only two games in the league, so a win would be really important for us and for the confidence.”

In 2007 Arsenal won four of their 14 post-Wembley matches. Despite getting back into the saddle with a comfortable 5-0 FA Cup replay win over Leyton Orient, their form evaporated even more spectacularly in 2011.

Knocked out of the Cup by Manchester United in the next round, they won just twice more that season. The 2007 collapse cost them third place in the league, missing out on goal difference.

In 2011, just four more points in the run-in would have seen the Gunners finish second - a height they have not scaled since 2005.

Cardiff City won five of their last 16 games after the disappointment of losing to Liverpool on penalties in 2011 and missed out on automatic promotion by four points.

Beaten finalists Tottenham Hotspur in 2009 and Bolton Wanderers in 2004 were denied European football by two and three points respectively.

Their form after Wembley was pretty good, just not good enough. Spurs won 58% of their games, and although Bolton’s defeat to Middlesbrough was the second of five in a row they regrouped to win six of their last nine, drawing another.

What none of the beaten finalists since 2004 have had, however, is a relegation battle to focus the minds.

It is something Sunderland’s players were acutely aware of at the final whistle at Wembley.

“We need to win games now, game after game, particularly at home,” said goalscorer Fabio Borini. “We have to make sure we stay up.”

Wes Brown was thinking along much the same lines.

“We have to take this into the league now, especially the first half with how we played and try to get a few points,” the centre-back stressed

“All season we’ve said it, we need to start putting points on the board now.”

Another factor in Sunderland’s favour is Wembley.

The 31,500-plus supporters who saw their team play at the rebuilt ground for the first time very noisily enjoyed their day and the players fed off it.

Both groups will be keen to get back and the slightly ludicrous decision to play FA Cup semi-finals there provides an instant chance.

As Borini added: “If you’re back on the pitch very quickly then it’s helpful.

“It’s not as though we should be disappointed, not with the way we played. We should be proud of what we’ve done until now.

“That’s the big positive thing we need to take with us. The cups have been really important for us and really positive, this cup and the FA Cup.

“We have another chance on Sunday to win another game and to come back to Wembley. Maybe the second time will feel a bit more like home.”

The key to winning? Score early.

Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea all netted in the opening 20 minutes of their first post-Wembley matches and went on to win four or five-nil.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer