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Make Your Case: Are Sunderland's Tactics This Season A Little TOO Defensive?

Matthew Lewis - Getty Images

We love an argument at Roker Report Towers. We won't deny it. So after another draw this weekend we decided to reignite the great cantankertorium that is 'Make Your Case'.

Is your glass half full and you see Sunderland as unbeaten this season, or is your glass half empty and the failure to register a league win is what has struck you? We thought we'd dive into that territory by asking whether Martin O'Neill's tactics are a little too defensive this season and if more emphasis should be being placed on asserting our own quality.

Michael Graham - Defend, Defend, Defend

I don't think that there is a fan out there who doesn't enjoy watching attacking free-flowing football. I am no different in that. It's great to see your team having a really good go at an opposition. I just enjoy seeing my team win more.

There tends to be an awful lot of focus on how good our front four is at the moment, and rightly so. It is packed with talent. But it should not detract from the limitations of the back four, and those limitations would likely be savagely exposed by a league that is renowned across the world for its pace and power.

The Sunderland back four has quality, don't get me wrong. O'Shea and Cuellar are good players. But they are primarily readers of the game who rely on their ability to see danger early to snuff it out. Proactive, rather than reactive, if you like. The same can be said of Craig Gardner who has been excellent at right back.

None of them are likely to win many races in the Premier League. That is just the way it is. So asking them to step up and maintain a high line to provide a platform for truly attacking football would be asking them to take a quantum leap out of their comfort zone and essentially asking them to do something beyond their capabilities.

How long would it take opposition sides to figure out that Sunderland have zero defence against counter-attacking football as long as they are kept away from Danny Rose's left side of the pitch? Not long I'd wager.

Ultimately, if the attacking talent that the club has assembled is going to have a chance to win us games, then games need to be tight. The tactics right now, therefore, I applaud. They are pragmatic and make the club hard to beat, and combining that stubborn streak in our game with our match-winners up front surely represents out best chance of success this season.

Karl Jones - Attack, Attack, Attack

Having spent all summer in pursuit of attacking options it would be remiss not to use them. Adding Adam Johnson, Steven Fletcher and an experienced deputy in Louis Saha to a team that mustered just 45 goals in the Premier League last season - relegated pair Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers each scored more - should be the catalyst for Sunderland making a concerted effort at stabilising itself within the top 10.

That its method of playing since Martin O'Neill has been work hard first, attack second is irrelevant; the options now at O'Neill's disposal puts his side in a position where it can dictate terms, especially on its own soil. Perhaps not in the way that football modernity suggests, but more a throwback to what made football - especially British football - so great. Johnson is widely expected to take pride and place on Sunderland's right-hand side, or at least has done so far when available thus far. Break-out winger James McClean runs opposite. Fletcher is through the middle and Stephane Sessegnon is anywhere and everywhere in between. It is almost the perfect storm of potency, the very ingredient that Sunderland has lacked in the Premier League since Peter Reid's first of two seventh-place finishes (even with Darren Bent's 24 goals, Sunderland only managed 48 in 2009/10). There is potential for high-octane, almost bully-boy play from our wingers. Get the ball to either Johnson or McClean and let them get at people - forcing them inside, pinning them to the by-line, and ultimately finding Fletcher, who has proven to be lethal in front of goal thus far.

The Sunderland side is certainly starting to resemble O'Neill's team at Aston Villa - on paper at least. The concern is that for all the attacking talent that was on display at Villa Park - a more forward-thinking James Milner and a significantly more confident Stewart Downing than present supplied the front line - they too struggled for goals. Fletcher was the well-documented, well-researched solution for O'Neill at his new club, but aside from his three goals in two matches Sunderland has seldom looked like troubling the opposition goalkeeper. It remains to be seen just how big a factor O'Neill's instructions are in that for as long as the issue of certain attackers' fitness linger.

Considering that we've played Arsenal (away), Swansea (away) and Liverpool (home), an attacking uprising may present itself as the season progresses. The question marks over the match sharpness of Sunderland's attacking core will be addressed as a run of games in quick succession appear on the horizon. Maybe this really is the calm before the storm.


So where do you stand? Are Sunderland too negative? Decide the argument in our poll and have your say in the comments box!

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