As quoted in yesterday’s Sunderland Echo, Phil Parkinson has spoken openly about the issues his side face, and how he hopes to overcome them.
One concern for Parkinson is ensuring that his forwards start finding the back of the net on a regular basis - something they have struggled to accomplish thus far.
The issue, however, in Parkinson’s opinion is not solely down to the forwards:
I think with Will [Grigg], he’s probably felt that expectation.
I look at him slightly differently, I think we’ve got to create opportunities for him.
I know that when he first came he probably had quite a few [that he missed], but I’m looking at recent games and I’m thinking, we’ve got to put the ball in right areas.
We know the runs he makes in the box, and where his goals come from, and we’ve got to make sure the team is in sync with that.
It’s actually refreshing to hear Parkinson hit the nail on the head here. For weeks, many fans have accurately noted that the likes of Wyke and Grigg have been utilised in a manner that doesn’t really get the most out of their game.
Neither player is particularly adept at playing with their back to goal, so instead Parkinson is looking to adjust things around them in the hopes of improving their form - and that’s a positive.
Furthermore, Parkinson went one step further and analyzed the manner in which he hopes to get his forwards firing:
I don’t think we can hide away from that [lack of creativity], the stats back it up.
Parkinson is right. Against Wycombe the Lads managed seven shots at Wycombe’s goal, but only one was on target. Again, though Parkinson thinks he has a solution:
It’s utilising the possession we have during games and being more effective with that. It’s something we’re looking at and trying to address in the short time we have on the training ground. We need to create chances for our goalscorers and I’m confident that if we do we have the players who can put the ball into the back of the net.
I think it’s about giving the lads a big of direction in terms of what we want in certain areas of the pitch. That will come over a period of time because we’ve got players who can produce.
Sunderland have looked somewhat bereft of ideas at times, but moving forward Parkinson knows what he wants in order to create opportunities:
Even Saturday, at times we turned down the opportunity to deliver from good areas and come back out.
We’ve got to look at that because goals come from quality crosses in good areas, and we didn’t get enough of those on Saturday.
Reading between the lines, it feels as though Parkinson is suggesting that his team need to be more direct in their approach.
Now, don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t equate to hoofball tactics. Instead, it’s a numbers game. Overload the flanks, get quality deliveries into the area, and believe that your forwards will take advantage of the opportunities being delivered.
It suits players like Grigg and McNulty whose movement in the area is vital to any success they find. It’s also effective for players like Wyke who, when back from injury, offer another type of presence in the opposition’s penalty area.
Parkinson boiled it down nicely when he argued that:
There’s two key areas, we haven’t kept enough clean sheets and we haven’t created enough chances for our strikers, who I believe will score goals if we do.
That’s just logical if you look at the season to date, and I think all players want to play in a side that’s progressive and excites the supporters.
Defensively, Sunderland need stability and a belief that those at the other end of the pitch will be able to bag the goal required to win games.
Parkinson’s approach suggests a pragmatism that many Sunderland fans had pointed to from the season’s opening.
Parkinson clearly understands the issues his side are facing, but will he be able to implement a gameplan that addresses those concerns? Here’s hoping.