“QUALITY” was Gus Poyet’s watch-word as he reflected on a missed opportunity at Turf Moor.
Sunderland spent the summer striving to upgrade a squad which produced a remarkable escape from the drop last season, yet there was precious little evidence of that extra proficiency against newly-promoted Burnley on Saturday.
While the Black Cats continued to highlight the improved resilience within their ranks, Gus Poyet’s side were plagued by sloppiness, particularly in the final third.
Poyet reflected after the 0-0 draw that it is the extra attacking quality which divides the top teams in the Premier League, and the price tags which go hand-in-hand with the division’s star performers.
And he admits winless Sunderland are yet to click going forwards to make the most of the attacking quality which they do have.
“If you don’t perform at the highest level, it’s very tight and there’s not too much difference,” said Poyet.
“Last week Spurs were better than us, but we got a result somehow.
“I was expecting us to be more in control and create more chances at Burnley, but we got a point.
“You need to be good week-in, week-out, otherwise it’s tough to win games.
“It’s quality; quality in the last decisions, quality in the cross, quality in the last pass.
“That’s the most expensive part of the game.
“It’s fantastic in England that we’ve got Cesc Fabregas back to show everyone how to do it.
“I can tell you it’s very difficult to do it. That costs money and it’s only very special players.
“If it’s better than okay, I’m sure we’re going to win games.
“I’m calm, but I was expecting a little bit more and it didn’t work.”
Burnley had come out of the traps with real intent, George Boyd immediately causing problems with a couple of crosses from the left and Kieran Trippier ending an impressive surge upfield with a less successful shot on goal.
They should have taken the lead early but Sordell froze when the chance arose.
Cattermole’s poorly directed back header played Lukas Jutkiewicz in behind and his square ball was begging to be driven home. Instead Sordell fluffed his connection completely, allowing Patrick van Aanholt to clear.
That miss appeared to sap the home side’s momentum, while Sunderland were struggling to get out of first gear.
Giaccherini managed to create something when he cut in and shot from 20 yards, but Tom Heaton was left with a simple save.
The standard of shooting scarcely improved at the other end, David Jones firing straight at Mannone following neat hold-up play from Boyd.
The best chance of a much-needed goal seemed to come from Larsson, with his hanging crosses responsible for most of Sunderland’s forward pressure.
One was deftly taken down by Wes Brown, only for Ben Mee and Jason Shackell to scramble clear, while Wickham headed another into the six-yard box where Jack Rodwell’s finishing touch lacked power.
Burnley were actually showing greater composure on the ball but struggled to make any meaningful progress in the final third, and the break arrived with Mannone having fielded only simple attempts.
The Black Cats had greater energy after the interval.
First Rodwell’s driven effort was gathered at the second attempt by Heaton, before a well-worked break ended with Giaccherini in space on the left-hand side of the box.
He drilled the ball across goal and Rodwell was waiting to tap home from point-blank range had Shackell not read the danger correctly and beaten him to it.
Shortly after the hour-mark Sordell’s audition as Ings’ stand-in was ended as Barnes was summoned from the bench.
Sunderland boss Poyet also went to his replacements, Jordi Gomez and Jozy Altidore on for Larsson and Johnson, and the game began to open up.
But it was Burnley who began to force the issue, an overlapping Scott Arfield almost surprising Mannone at his near post and Jutkiewicz appealing ambitiously for a penalty when challenged by the slight Giaccherini.
Jutkiewicz had a chance to settle things with 13 minutes left, reacting quickest to a Jones pass that briefly outwitted everyone, and getting a strong shot away. But Mannone was equal to it and palmed it clear.