West Ham 1-0 Sunderland: Five things we learned from Black Cats' final trip to the Boleyn Ground

Sam Allardyce was unable to make his return to Upton Park a winning one, with wasted chances and individual mistakes costing the Black Cats dear. Here, we take a look at five things that we learned from the game.

West Ham 1-0 Sunderland: Five things we learned from Black Cats' final trip to the Boleyn Ground
Dame N'Doye was forced out on to the wing yet again against the Hammers (Photo: SAFC)

Despite a promising performance, especially in the second half, Sunderland came away from London with no points after Michail Antonio seized on Patrick van Aanholt's error to give West Ham United the victory. But what did this loss tell us?

Lee Cattermole isn't the man to occupy a more advanced midfield role

Recently we have seen Jan Kirchhoff impress in a holding midfield role, meaning that Lee Cattermole has been pushed slightly further forward alongside Yann M'Vila in the centre of midfield. Although this gives him more of an opportunity to be aggressive and press the opposition higher up the pitch whilst knowing that someone is waiting behind him to cover the space that he leaves free, the ex-Middlesbrough man comes up short in an attacking sense.

There are players waiting in the wings who would offer a bit more in this position, such as Sebastian Larsson or, as we saw on Saturday, Jack Rodwell who, despite missing two golden chances, managed to get into the positions to take up such opportunities. This is something that the team currently lacks when Cattermole plays further forward, and it's time Sam Allardyce decided whether to sacrifice the in-form Kirchhoff or to drop Cattermole for someone more effective in the centre of the park.

What can Allardyce do with Cattermole? | Photo: Getty
What can Allardyce do with Cattermole? | Photo: Getty

Dame N'Doye should either play up front or not at all

Another man who does not suit the position that he has been given by the manager is Senegalese striker Dame N'Doye, who has been shunted out on to the wing by Allardyce in a similar fashion to that of Danny Graham against Tottenham Hotspur.

N'Doye offers an aerial threat in a wide position, but that is about all he can offer there as he lacks other abilities that a wide man needs, such as crossing and the vision to play his team-mates in.

Jermain Defoe is always going to be the first choice striker in this Sunderland team and rightly so, but it feels strange to force N'Doye into an unfamiliar position when a more suitable wide option is available in Larsson or even fellow striker Fabio Borini.

Sunderland created chances, but couldn't take them

How Sunderland came out of this match with no points was puzzling, but how they came away without scoring was even stranger given some of the chances they had.

Defoe couldn't hit the target with a volley after he got in behind James Collins, and Rodwell somehow managed to miss two fantastic chances after his introduction, with the finishing touch badly missing from the Black Cats' game.

This issue isn't something that has plagued Sunderland thankfully, as the 4-2 win at Swansea City and the 1-0 win against upcoming opponents Crystal Palace show that the players are capable of finishing chances that come their way, but at the Boleyn Ground they just weren't at the races in front of goal.

Kirchhoff has changed opinions in a big way

After his horrific debut appearance against Tottenham, many people were quick to write off the ex-Bayern Munich man as a transfer failure, a player that was brought in on the cheap because better targets weren't interested.

Kirchhoff has since proved that Allardyce got exactly the man he wanted, with immaculate performances in every match since his first start against Manchester City, as well as arguably being Sunderland's best player against the Hammers on Saturday.

He has brought a calm influence to the side in defence, with his role as the anchor man allowing players ahead of him to push forward and support the attack. If he continues in this vein of form, he could well be one of the bargains of the season.

Sunderland MUST get three points against Crystal Palace

We have heard it so many times before, but the game against Alan Pardew's side on Tuesday is certainly another must win encounter.

The timing could not be better, with Palace in a shockingly bad slump that has led to some fans calling for the former Newcastle United boss to be sacked, and how Sunderland fans would love to see the final nail put in his coffin at the Stadium of Light.

The London outfit are rock bottom of the Premier League form table after a winless run of ten games in the league, meaning a repeat of their 4-1 win in this fixture last season is highly unlikely. Allardyce will know victory is not guaranteed however, and will no doubt stress the importance of this game to his players before Tuesday.