Paolo Di Canio spoke on Saturday, as he had to, of how revolutions take time and how he was generally pleased with how his Sunderland team had performed despite their 1-0 home defeat to Fulham, a team who have not won more than four away games in a season in a decade.
Up to a point, he was right: Sunderland, without ever looking especially threatening, had the better of the game (21 chances to five, although only 3-1 on target) and were undone from the only corner they conceded.
But what is troubling, what might bring closer the meltdown that many have predicted for the club this season, is that that game was more important than most.
Not all games over the course of a season are equal. It is a pleasing fallacy – based in the fact that there really is no better method – that a randomly allocated fixture list (certain key holidays excepted) means all is equal.
It may be fair, but some games mean more than others.
Sunderland this season have a weirdly unbalanced list. In their next seven home games they face Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur: that is, the probable top six and their closest geographical rivals.
It is entirely conceivable that, without playing especially badly, they could fail to win any of those games.
Then, even if they have done moderately well in a relatively benign series of away games, they could find themselves with, say, 10-12 points from 16 matches, under enormous pressure and with confidence shattered.
Of course the flip side is what happens in the second half of the season.
Sunderland have a run of home games they might expect to win (or might have expected to win from a neutral position, before their morale had been hammered) but also a series of extremely difficult away matches.
Realistically a team like Sunderland would look at away games against the top six and think securing four or five points is a decent return: the problem is that if those games come one after another it places a huge premium on the home matches. A couple of slip-ups could easily become an extended slump.
And that is why Sunderland so needed to get points on the board against Fulham, just to ease the anxiety before this run of tough home games.
Di Canio said that he would rather play well and lose – and in the long term that makes sense.
As Chris Anderson and David Sally show in their book The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong, there is a significant amount of luck involved in determining the result of an individual game but over time quality does shine through.
In the shorter term, though, impressive as some of Sunderland's pressing and build-up play was, well though they retained possession, and promising though the debut of the Czech full-back Ondrej Celustka was, the defeat ramps up the pressure before an extremely awkward run.
The only saving grace is that the next home game is against Arsenal, a team already in a so-called "crisis" rather than merely approaching it.
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