SUNDERLAND manager Gus Poyet revealed he left Lee Cattermole out of his squad on Saturday over fears the midfielder could end up suspended for next Sunday’s Capital One Cup final.
Cattermole’s name was missing from the team sheet for Saturday’s 4-1 drubbing at Arsenal, but the Black Cats boss revealed the 25-year-old’s starting place is the only one guaranteed after watching a below par performance from his side at the Emirates.
And he revealed any plans he already had in his mind for his final starting line-up have now evaporated after their disastrous dress rehearsal for Wembley.
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Goals from Tomas Rosicky, Laurent Koscienly and an Olivier Giroud brace consolidated the Gunners’ place behind Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.
Emanuele Giaccherini pulled a late consolation back for Poyet’s side, who looked like their minds were elsewhere from the very start in north London.
Having made several changes for last weekend’s FA Cup win over Southampton, Poyet reverted back to a more familiar starting line-up – perhaps one close to that he had in mind for next Sunday – but after witnessing his side be stream rolled by Arsene Wenger’s men, the Black Cats boss revealed almost every place in the team is now up for grabs – apart from Cattermole’s who will replace the cup-tied Liam Bridcutt.
With the exception of Vito Mannone, Jack Colback and Fabio Borini, the Black Cats were bystanders for large spells in the capital and Poyet revealed he had purposely left Cattermole out all-together, because he did not want to risk the former Midddlesbrough midfielder being sent off.
“Unfortunately for me, it (Cattermole) was the only decision I could control,” Poyet revealed.
“I don’t want to say something to get me fined but for me the referee was one who normally sends Lee Cattermole off.
“Add that to the fact we were away to Arsenal. I am sure if we were to go two or three goals down, Lee is not the sort of player to have in the middle. I made a mistake in the press conference – if there is one player starting next week, it is Lee Cattermole. The rest at the moment are substitutes.
”I say sorry to the players who started on the bench on Saturday. You want me to play, but give me a chance. Don’t just throw me out there against Arsenal.
“I don’t want to blame ourselves only – I want to give credit to Arsenal as well. But at the end of the day I need to be honest as well and we did badly. We did not start well and it was not a good day for the team I want to have on the pitch against the top teams.
“The idea was for them as a team to put themselves in the line-up for next week so I was expecting them at least to do the basics.”
Before Sunderland had time to settle into the game they were heading back to the half way line after Giroud finished off a superb move involving Rosicky and Jack Wilshere with five minutes on the clock.
For much of the first half, Arsenal’s percentage of possession was in the nineties and such was their domination Wenger’s men went in at the break 3-0 ahead and cruising.
Poyet admitted he was baffled by his side’s performance having trained very well leading up to the game, and revealed he hopes the result will provide his players with a much-needed wake-up call.
He said: “If I knew (why the team didn’t play well), I would tell you. I thought the team was concentrating and ready – probably with the options to do well both in this game and in the final. But we didn’t.
“Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is the best I have seen them in training. They were really pushing for those starting positions on the pitch. Maybe we did something bad on Thursday and Friday!
“I tell you what – if it does not help us (going into the final) we are going to be in trouble. Badly. It was the perfect game to play before the final.
“Sometimes you come here and you play well and you think, okay, we can go to Wembley confident – it’s easy. No.
“Sometimes a good kick in the backside at the right time is good to wake you up. But until the game next week I cannot tell you which one it is. But it is true it changed plenty of things in my mind.”
The defeat means Sunderland remain in the bottom three and Poyet revealed Premier League survival is still more important than winning the Capital One Cup in his eyes.
“It is, but don’t tell the people in Sunderland,” Poyet said. “I thought it was just down to the manager to stay in the Premier League – apparently it is more important for a manager to win a cup in Sunderland because it makes you more famous. I am learning.”