Toothless up top
I worry about this 4-2-4 formation we seem to have switched to and whether it best suits the players at Jack Ross’ disposal. Sure, we’ve maintained our record of scoring in every league game this season, but we haven’t scored more than once in a game since we beat Bristol Rovers 2-1 at home SEVEN league matches ago - clearly, there’s a problem with how we’re approaching our attacks.
I think set pieces are a large part of the issue. We consistently manage to win a high volume of corners and free kicks but never look threatening from them. Are we working hard enough on the training pitch to put that right? That’s difficult for me to confirm as an ordinary punter, but we’re not seeing anything different in the way we approach set pieces so, naturally, I’m going to assume not enough is being done.
If we’re going to persist with Charlie Wyke up top then it makes sense for our wide-men to play like wingers, as opposed to playing like inside forwards. Gooch and McGeady always look to cut inside - could we perhaps counter that by bringing Bryan Oviedo back into the team, thus getting some natural width back out on the pitch?
These are just the suggestions of a mere punter, but it’s very clear to anyone who has watched Sunderland recently that improvement is needed in attack. We’re drawing too many games, and not putting teams away who we really should be beating.
Signing a new striker will help things, of course, but I do feel that a lot of our problems are caused by the way we approach the attacking side of our play.
McGeouch was very good
I really enjoyed watching Dylan McGeouch play on Saturday.
He was physical, clinical with his passing, did well retaining the ball and generally carried out the role of defensive midfielder perfectly in a game where we knew that Luton were going to come and play on the floor.
I’m not suggesting that his performance was perfect, but it’s became clear recently that of all the midfielders we have he’s the only one capable of playing in the role of defensive ball-carrier to a level where the players around him can concentrate on effecting the game in other ways. For instance, I felt that was Max Power’s best game in a long time as he tried to impact the game further up the field - something only possible because McGeouch was intent on shielding and protecting the back four.
You’re very unlikely to see anything spectacular from McGeouch but his discipline and defensive awareness is needed, particularly in a team that plays with four attackers.
Does something need to be done about atmosphere?
One of the big talking points coming away from the game has been about the atmosphere in the ground, something that has maybe been a problem for a while now but was only highlighted because we had a particularly big crowd in the ground.
We plan on delving deeper with this here on RokerReport.com in the coming days, but having canvassed supporters since the game on the subject via social media it’s clear that so many of us feel passionate about the atmosphere at games and the need to improve it.
Perhaps a focus group is needed, where like-minded folk can get their heads together and work out ways to improve the atmosphere at games.
After all, when there are 37,000 supporters in the Stadium of Light we can really influence games by making it an intimidating place to come - but, for whatever reason, that hasn’t been the case.
Something to ponder, then. We can’t physically do the job of a Sunderland player but we can give them the best possible platform to overwhelm teams in big games.
O’Nien going nowhere
I seem to say this every single week, but Luke O’Nien was brilliant again at the weekend at right back and I struggle to see how Adam Matthews gets back into the team ahead of him any time soon - and I’m a big fan of Matthews and what he offers our side.
Check out the video below. It was one of the highlights of the game and one of the moments that really lifted the fans off their seats - with Luton breaking at pace in a dangerous area, O’Nien darted across to make a perfectly-executed tackle which not only won him the ball and set us away back on the attack, but also left their player in a heap.
Positionally he was brilliant too. James Justin is Luton’s best player but I felt he really struggled to get past O’Nien, meaning Sunderland were able to nullify the impact of one of their finest attackers.
I don’t really care that O’Nien is a midfielder by trade - we shouldn’t judge his performances based on that. Instead, let’s judge him on the fact that every week, without fail, he’s one of the top performers on the pitch in a position where we need discipline, energy and a good team-player.
For me, O’Nien has made the right back berth his own and we shouldn’t be looking to remove him from it any time soon.