In all honesty you could probably list around one million reasons for why Sunderland are currently staring relegation to League One straight in the face.
I know that we’ve had no money to spend in the last two transfers, but... could we have done better? I mean, there are many teams that have put up more of a fight than Sunderland have this season that also had very little to spend, and I can’t help but wonder why it is that they’ve been able to ‘succeed’ having faced similar issues to ourselves.
Even with the tumultuous nature of this season and all it has thrown at us I can’t help but feel we could have prepared ourselves better had we properly analysed what it is that makes a team successful in this league.
If you study Sunderland’s results this season and the kind of goals that we’ve conceded it’s not really difficult to see where we’ve criminally left ourselves short - we’re simply not big or physical enough to even compete with the poor teams in this division.
I guess to an extent you can understand why that might be - we’ve spent the last ten years playing our football at the top level in a league where physicality counts for very little, and as such the squad we’ve been left over from that era is largely filled with smaller players that in year’s gone by weren’t required to compete with big, robust forwards and defenders.
The case in point is a player like Bryan Oviedo, who in every sense is a Premier League footballer. Yesterday afternoon he was bullied by a player that lacked technique but was simply too physical for him to compete - and as such his position on the pitch was rendered useless.
For Oviedo’s own sake he was hooked before it got any worse for him, with Coleman bringing on Adam Matthews in his place for the final stages of the game.
Atdhe Nuihu and Lucas Joao are not even top Championship forwards but the pair made Sunderland’s defence look silly at times in the second half, simply because they were too big for us to handle them properly.
As soon as they walked onto the pitch at the start of the game my heart sank, knowing exactly what would be coming if Sheffield Wednesday had any sense about them and had actually watched the type of goals we have typically conceded this season.
Once half time came around I felt that we’d been let off lightly by our opponents. Not once did they have a corner or a free kick around our box, which in turn meant we had very little to deal with from their towering pair up front. But, after the break they re-emerged and within minutes Joao was tight, right up against Oviedo in a bid to try and exploit his limited defensive ability. It was simple but it worked, and after 45 minutes of hope we collapsed exactly in the manner that I had predicted before a ball was even kicked.
All of this leads me back to the summer and the abhorrent player recruitment that was carried out by Martin Bain and Simon Grayson.
After being royally thumped by a Celtic reserve side in pre-season, Grayson made the move to shorten the Stadium of Light pitch ahead of the Championship opener against Derby County. This was done to apparently work to our advantage, with the plan being that we’d play a more physical, long-ball style of football and that operating on a smaller pitch would lead to us winning more games at home.
Understandable, then, had we signed players that could actually play in that manner - but we hadn’t. Not one of the players that Sunderland have signed in the two transfer windows we’ve had since relegation from the Premier League can be described as big or physical (well, Ashley Fletcher is big but I’m not sure that’s a tool used to his advantage) - and that has been a MASSIVE problem for us throughout the entirety of this torturous campaign.
As such we look likely to be playing League One football next season, where the requirement for us to be big and physical in order to be competitive only increases further.
I think that Chris Coleman recognises this, and will be hoping and praying for a pot of money in the summer so he can actively recruit the type of player that we need in order to be able to succeed, but it’s such a shame that nothing was done to address this obvious flaw last summer or in January.