FanPost

Get with the times or we risk going backwards.

I don't know what it is or why but I've woke up today in a really foul mood. For some reason, every time I think about where we currently find ourselves is pissing me off.

The main gripe over the course of this season that seems to be the opinion of the majority of Sunderland fans is that we have a very old-fashioned squad - players that make up for their lack of quality with effort and work rate. We have players that will say all of the right things to the press and promise that we will establish ourselves as one of the better sides in this league but cannot deliver when it comes to the games on a Saturday afternoon. We're regarded by football analysts on the outside for having a wealth of players capable of harming teams from set pieces, yet our ratio of goals to corners and free kicks is absolutely shocking.

We're really limping through this season, and if we are fortunate enough to still be at this level in the summer, serious work needs to be done to create a legacy and mentality that will shape the success of our club in years to come.

Swansea City are a fantastic side to model ourselves on. They bring in players with the intention of playing a certain style of football, and have seen results delivered quickly and with style. They look to hurt teams through good football, but have players that are versatile enough to adapt if their plan A isn't working. Similarly, Cardiff City have moved this season to playing a certain way for the greater good and it's no coincidence that they've elevated themselves from being the traditional mid-season slumpers in the Championship to a side now more than capable of entering the Premier League.

Southampton acted swiftly in order to create and kick start their legacy. It was widely criticised when they sacked Nigel Adkins in order to hire Mauricio Pochettino but their message was clear - the owners want their football club to play the same style of football from top to bottom and by bringing in a manager with the methods to add to their substance, their long terms goals of being a successful and neat footballing side in the Premier League have a much better chance of being met.

Why can't Sunderland adopt a similar philosophy to the way we play? Is it so unrealistic that we should immediately quash it before considering the benefits?

There have been many, many times this season that you could have been bored to tears watching us play, most of them resulting in a draw or a defeat. It's clear that we set out to sit deep and counter against teams, not necessarily a bad tactic, but it's immensely difficult to implement that style of play when our side is filled with players that lack pace, trickery and the technical ability to take a man on and beat him, a style synonymous with counter attacking football. We rely far too heavily on Stephané Sessegnon to create openings and give the likes of Adam Johnson no chance when, despite being adept at taking on a full back and delivering a cross, he's sat deep in our half in a defensive position whenever he receives the ball.

If we manage to get through the rest of this season unscathed, we need to seriously look at another dreaded overhaul of the playing squad. Martin O'Neill has had his hands tied since he came in but I seriously feel that the coming summer transfer window is his first real opportunity of putting a his stamp on this Sunderland side.

The summer window in the season that MON came to the club was nothing short of comical. Steve Bruce invested in a number of bargain buys that were merely squad fillers to bulk out what we already had. Despite this, the majority of them have become regular players since they joined the club and we're now suffering from it as a result.
We chose not to retain Mensah and Muntari, and allowed Gyan and Ferdinand to leave the club under a cloud. Ferdinand was a particularly baffling departure as he'd been a regular starter throughout August. We spend big on Connor Wickham and brought in Wes Brown, who has barely featured since arriving here.

My point is that we brought in very little quality, yet added a grand total of twelve signings to our squad in that window, the majority of which still remain at the club.

You can look throughout our team and find players in almost every position that lack the quality top ten sides need. We don't have our own left back, our right backs are woefully inconsistent and haven't got the pace or ability to support an attack up the wing, and our centre halves are slow and have to play deep otherwise risk being caught by quick forwards. Our wide players are restricted to the damage they can cause with them mainly starting from within our half with the ball. Our central midfielders are poor in possession and don't contribute anywhere near enough with goals and assists, and we lack a strong, quick striker up top to offer us another option when Fletcher or Graham are struggling to break through a tough defence.

If we want to move forward from being a lower mid-table side, all of that needs to change.

We lack pace in vital areas, and central players in both defence and midfield that can pass the ball under pressure and build up play from our own half. A couple of centre halves that have enough acceleration to move into a central-defensive midfield position and allow the rest of the side to push further forward would be ideal, along with full backs that can similarly join attacks and contribute with assists and crosses out wide. Central midfielders that are clever thinkers, with the ability to break down teams and wear them out through merciless passing and ball retention, should be a top priority considering the limited technical ability of Gardner, Larsson, Vaughan, Colback et al.

By no means is yet another squad overhaul ideal, but it has to be done as soon as possible. We have too many 'squad players' on the wage bill. Our squad is littered with workhorses that will plod through games, much more likely to settle for a draw instead of taking the initiative and taking control of games. We possess too many players that are phased by playing better footballing sides, a factor that has contributed to our very inconsistent form over this season and last.

Brutal, it may seem, but I can't see many people arguing against how I feel. Nobody can deny this season has been a slog from start to finish, despite promising so much more. Many of the people I speak to seem to suggest that becoming a top ten side is a building process that takes time, but there are teams around us that have managed to vitalise themselves much quicker than we have. You only have to look at the turnaround Newcastle have had since signing the majority of their summer targets one transfer window early. If you show enough ambition and a determination to better yourself instead of settling for what we have got, you can be a step ahead of the rest. Unfortunately for Sunderland, many teams around us have taken this stance at an earlier stage and now we are the ones playing catchup with the rest of the league.

After six seasons at this level it is about time we made a real mark and showed our potential at this level. If we don't, we risk losing our better players sooner than we would ever wish to, taking big steps backwards rather than little steps forward. We all want the same thing for our club and that is to become successful. If we don't get with the times, we risk becoming stagnant.

I for one don't want to see that happen again to my club.

Gavin Henderson

Follow me on twitter - @GavinSAFC

Are you making a FanPost? Well that's fantastic, just keep it tasteful.

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