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Sunderland have two MASSIVE games this week - Simon Grayson must change his approach

With our attack looking better but our defence looking terrible, Simon Grayson must play to his strengths ahead of two games which will surely define his Sunderland tenure.

Brentford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Remember when Simon Grayson first arrived at Sunderland and most of us thought “well, at least he'll have us organised”? What a naïve time that was. That is what his arrival seemed to promise though - that we would be unspectacular, yet solid.

So how can we be so defensively poor?

It can't all be down to the ineptitude of Jason Steele, despite that being quite a factor.

I genuinely believe our defensive options are better than our league position suggests.

The back four against Brentford was made up of four players who have played the majority of their careers at the top level - three of which are internationals. They shouldn't be conceding such a high amount of goals on such a regular basis. Sure, mistakes will happen now and again, even the best players have nightmares, but this wasn't just a one off.

When you speak of a manager not getting the best out of his players, you usually think of an attacker who isn't being utilised correctly. With Grayson though, it's his defenders he's letting down and something has to change.

Brentford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Grayson is letting his defenders down.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

In their defence (if you'll pardon the pun) the back line is getting no protection whatsoever. Even though Didier Ndong regained possession quite well against Brentford, he was poor in on the ball and Lee Cattermole... well, I just don't know what to say. He made a mistake which presented the home side with the chance to open the scoring and an all round anonymous display.

No matter what back four are behind that, they're going to have to work hard to come away with a clean sheet.

It's been obvious for weeks that things need freshening up in the middle but I don't know if Grayson will actually address it.

The manager seems very reluctant to drop Cattermole and that can't purely be down to lack of options, as anything would be an improvement.

Even so, with Paddy McNair soon to be available and if Jonny Williams can stay fit, there's no reason not to change things. Even Darron Gibson can't be worse than Cattermole at this point.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Even Darron Gibson can’t be worse than Lee Cattermole at the moment... can he?
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Thankfully, there looks to be some green shoots in front of them.

Lewis Grabban made his first start in over a month and bagged a brace, bringing his goal record to five in nine. That's impressive in a good side, never mind a one in our position that barely creates chances. However, chance creation will hopefully become less of an issue with Duncan Watmore edging ever closer to full fitness, with his running causing Brentford endless problems until his lack of minutes caught up with him.

I know Grayson isn't going to do it but when you look at Watmore, Grabban, Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman, backed up by the attack-minded full backs Bryan Oviedo and Adam Matthews, we're capable of hurting any team in this division...

... as long as we actually give them platform to do it.

A good place to start would not be by not reigning them in as much when they're leading and looking capable of hurting the opposition even more.

We may be unbeaten in three but we’re without a win since August - it's not good enough to just come away with draws.

The next two games, both of which are at home, could define Simon Grayson's time at Sunderland. If he's bold and puts his faith in the attackers while renewing the midfield, it might just regain the backing of wavering fans.

If he sticks to the same kind of rigid system, though, there may not be a way back for him.

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