Five goals in five league games for red hot McGeady!
Despite some brief uncertainty surrounding his immediate future suggesting fans were expecting him to leave in January, Aiden McGeady is now flourishing under Jack Ross at Sunderland.
The skillful winger, who was my man of the match yesterday, set up two goals as well as showing composure to convert the penalty he earned.
Throughout the match, McGeady oozed class with his quick touches and was efficient on the ball. Often he can be accused of doing too much or for picking the wrong option, but his assists - especially for O’Nein’s goal, where he could have had a go - show that he is playing for the team and not just himself.
It appears that Jack Ross is starting to get the best out of McGeady now that he is fully fit. I think when he is regularly starting and motivated to play, McGeady is a great asset within the team and is certainly someone who is worth the wages should he manage to keep up this consistently throughout the rest of the season.
Kieffer Moore was everything we need Charlie Wyke to be!
One player who was a nightmare to cope with all night for our back four was Barnsley striker Kieffer Moore. The 6”5 target man was excellent throughout, scoring twice and acting as an outlet by bringing other players into the game.
The type of forward play that we saw from Moore is exactly what Sunderland need out of injured forward Charlie Wyke once he’s back and playing regularly. I think when Josh Maja went off it handed Barnsley the momentum as we didn’t really have an outlet up top; whereas, a player like Wyke who could have held the ball up and won headers may have eased the pressure in our midfield.
We need Wyke to be a strong centre forward who can offer a different option to Maja or even play alongside him when necessary. If Wyke can replicate the type of performance Moore put in for our opponents last night, Jack Ross will have a brilliant alternative option up top as we head into the second half of the season.
Maja reminds me of Jermain Defoe
Admittedly, the young striker needs to improve on his ability to cope physically when right up against tough defenders, but the touch and finish for his goal was absolutely first-class and a reminder to us all of just how clinical this lad is when handed opportunities to score.
With Maja it’s always the same - he can go a while without contributing to the game only to pop up with an excellent finish at a time when you most need it.
His goal reminded me of the type that we used to see Jermain Defoe put away on a regular basis - the way he used his touch to set himself up and then dispatch it perfectly with his left-foot into the corner was just brilliant.
It’s of paramount importance that we get his new contract tied up, and fast. Maja is just 19 years old, and he’s proving to be a reliable goal scorer as well as someone who can cope with high pressure and expectations.
We all wanted a new big-name striker in the summer, but in fact it is one from our own academy who is looking like a credible candidate for top scorer, with 11 league goals so far in 18 games.
Physicality remains an issue within the team
One issue that has followed us from last season is that our team lacks both physicality and aerial presence.
Yes, we won the game and scored four goals so there’s no need to be negative, but this is an area in which I believe teams will target more and more as the season progresses.
We were pretty horrendous at defending crosses into the box throughout the match, and Kieffer Moore proved too difficult for our defenders to handle most of the time. The crowd were anxious whenever a corner went into the box as Barnsley’s height constantly proved to be a problem, and thankfully we were able to outscore our opponents in order to negate the fact we looked likely to concede more often than not from aerial situations.
Barnsley scored twice from crosses and had one cleared off the line by Lynden Gooch - Sunderland were in desperate need of a couple of tall, physical players capable of offering us some presence, and at one stage it looked like Alim Ozturk was warming up ready to come on with that in mind.
Although we were better technically with the ball, I thought at times we were bullied by a much more physical side and on another day that match could easily have ended in a draw.
I think adding one or two more physical players - specifically a central midfielder and a centre-half - should be on the agenda in January. As I stated above, Charlie Wyke will be a great option to add when fit but I think physicality is a weakness Jack Ross must resolve in order to improve the squad.