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Talking Points: Sunderland are lacking a big, hard-nosed defender - January transfer priority?

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“Yesterday’s performance confirmed something that has been nagging me for a while - that Baldwin & Flanagan are not well-suited as a partnership”, writes Gav in our post-Walsall edition of Talking Points.

Sunderland AFC

McGeady Reborn

It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch Aiden McGeady rediscover his love for football this season, all in a Sunderland shirt.

Against Walsall he was class once again, and his ability to consistently beat his man shows just why Jack Ross has made it his objective to get the Republic of Ireland man back to enjoying his football.

He was named as captain yesterday with George Honeyman missing, and he’s deserved some recognition for his fine recent form.

As the oldest player on the park, Ross looked to McGeady to provide his team with experience and leadership - and he did just that, even if we weren’t able to do enough to win the game.

His goal - his sixth in seven outings - was a tap in, but the fact that he’s even making late runs into the box to get on the end of loose balls shows how confident he is about his own ability to hurt teams at the minute.

Keep it up, Aiden!

Sunderland AFC

Defender needed

I’m a big fan of both Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin, but yesterday’s performance confirmed something that has been nagging me for a while - that they’re not well-suited as a partnership in League One.

They’re both technically good and are decent in 1v1 situations, but aerially they struggle and I think signing a very good player in that position should be our priority in the upcoming January transfer window.

Andy Cook, the Walsall forward, battered them both all afternoon but it was fortunate for us that he’s not really that good, and whilst he scored one, but he probably should have had three or four.

It’s not the first time an aerially proficient forward has caused us bother this season - in fact, it was only on Tuesday that Kieffer Moore gave them a good hiding when we managed to fend off Barnsley.

I understand that Jack Ross likes his defenders to play out from the back, but bringing in a brutish, hard-nosed defender during the winter transfer window could be the difference between success and failure as we look to push on in all of the competitions that we’re still involved in.

Sunderland AFC

Graft, even if we didn’t play well

We were spot-on in the first half but nowhere near as good in the second - yet, despite this, I’m pleased with the performances of the majority of players who gave their all regardless of the result.

Adam Matthews, Lynden Gooch and Luke O’Nien are the three names that immediately spring to mind when thinking about this - none of them played particularly well, but they grafted their nuts off, and really that’s the least we can ask of them.

As I touched on when talking about McGeady, this is something the manager has managed to drum in to every single player, win, lose or draw.

Our quality has to be better over the course of the ninety minutes, we know this, but if we can always at least match our opponents for effort we should come out on top more often than not when considering the ability that we possess in our ranks.

Sunderland AFC

Mumba plays like an older pro

When Sunderland desperately needed some fresh legs to help take the pressure off our tiring midfield, Jack Ross placed faith in young Bali Mumba to provide his side with some protection - and to his credit, he did just that.

I was really impressed with Bali’s contributon - he shielded it well, passed short and quick, wanted the ball, moved to create space and provided his teammates with an extra option, and even almost created a goalscoring opportunity.

These small moments of quality will all add up to giving Mumba a platform to succeed at Sunderland - it’s nice to see him clearly improving and learning under the stewardship of a manager that values importance to a squad as a whole.