Talking points after the Sunderland win
After a decent win away at Sunderland on Saturday, we take a look at the main (and surprisingly optimistic!) talking points, including a potential rise up the table, the resurrection of Yann and the FA Cup draw tonight.
We avoided a potential banana skin - It has nearly been a year that lowly Sunderland have won at home, so when chartable Reading come calling, it does make you wonder. However, it was an assured first period and an even better second, albeit helped by the sending off just before half time, which again was another potential banana skin. It was a professional job all around and another away victory, to add to the impressive away wins at Leeds and Derby in recent months.
We are closer to the play-offs than the relegation zone - I'm not saying you read too much into this, but we are now ten points clear of the relegation zone and nine points off the play-offs. I'm not saying we are more likely to be heading towards the play-offs, but it is a much healthier position than we were in a few months ago. With 26 games still to go and it finally seems we are starting to click with just one defeat in the last seven (against top of the league), there's no reason why we can't make a steady play-off push.
A fit Yann with Aluko and Barrow can be devastating - After a sluggish start since his return from injury and understandably, it seemed Yann was edging closer to his best again. Since both Aluko and Barrow signed, the potential of linking up with Yann made me foam at the mouth. Barrow's pace, Aluko's trickery and Yann's goals could be the recipe for a rise up the table and we got a glimpse of that on Saturday.
We are a left-back away from having a settled side - Following on from the above point and with Stam naming the same XI for the third consecutive game, which he has never done before, it seems he is close to know his best side. Bacuna is currently taking up a role at full-back, but I don't think this is where he wants him in the long-term, with a role in central midfield more natural for the summer signing. This means a left-back will be the priority for Stam in January, with Obita injured, Blackett inconsistent and Richards not ready just yet.
Could a cup run help or hinder our league form? - The third-round for the FA Cup draw is tonight and it's always one to look forward too, even if we get rubbish draws all the time! It begs the question that would a good run in the cup be a benefit or not? Our last FA Cup run to the semi-final came in a poor league season back in 2014/15, while in our promotion season back in 2011/12, we fell over at the first hurdle. We are stuck in the middle at the moment, so while a good cup run could boost confidence, would it be a distraction from trying to push back up the league table? Time will tell.