Q: Is there cause for concern on the back of Sunderland’s defeat at the weekend, or do you feel hopeful that Phil Parkinson will improve our results as the season progresses?
I guess that I feel like we should be somewhere in the middle. Of course, on the face of it there are few positives to be taken from losing to a side further down the table and being unable to score. Ultimately performances mean very little when they don’t tally up with the points on the board - for all we played well on Saturday, we still lost and failed to hit the back of the net.
That said, I still believe that the last two performances in particular have seen Sunderland show signs of improvement. Tranmere was a fantastic result and the performance matched it, whilst at the weekend we got beat yet did just about everything but score.
Phil Parkinson has a tough task on his hands with this job but I think that it’s important not to get too carried away at this stage. My firm belief is that we have to keep ourselves within touching distance of the top two before January. Even if we are four or five points behind whoever finds themselves top of the league come the new year, that should be enough for us to take stock and sign the players that we need to help bridge that gap.
Right now we are behind where we need to be. Eight points off the top two is not good enough and I don’t doubt the players and the manager know this.
Thankfully, we have a home game on Saturday against an opponent who are struggling and this is a fantastic opportunity to get three points. If we perform in the same way as we have in the last two games then I have no doubt that we’ll win, and hopefully that’ll see good league results snowball from there.
Phil West says...
I don’t believe there is any reason to panic, nor is there any reason to believe that Parkinson won’t get it right in terms of helping the team to turn encouraging performances into results.
Even though we are still in the early stages of his reign as manager, there are encouraging signs. The team is playing with more attacking intent and crucially, our mindset is definitely changing from reactive to proactive. We are attempting to play more off the front-foot, instead of inviting teams onto us, and that is clearly Parkinson’s influence filtering through.
I don’t foresee him being accused of being overly cautious this season. Against Tranmere, the handbrake was released, and I firmly believe that it will remain released for the majority of games this season. Defensively, he’s clearly working on organisation and discipline, which is also much-needed.
Where we do need to improve, however, is in the final third. Any chances, whether half or gilt-edged, need to be taken wherever possible. We might look back at Saturday’s game and point to the number of chances created as evidence of improvement, and with some justification, but continued profligacy in front of goal will harm us badly as we attempt to chase down the teams in front of us. Grigg needs to continue to work hard, and the sooner McNulty hits top form again the better.
A major puzzle is that of our poor form away from the SOL. Home comforts are all well and good, but our current inability to take that good home form to smaller stadiums and less fervent crowds is hindering us. Are the players mentally tough enough? Can they ‘do it on a cold afternoon in such and such a place’, as the old saying goes? If they can’t, they need to start quickly, because the games are rolling by. Don’t assume because you’ve beaten one team 5-0, that you simply turn up to the next game thinking you’ve got it worked out, because you will be made fools of.
So far it’s been mixed. Improved performances, below-par results.
The potential is visible, and with a little time it will be unlocked.
Tom Albrighton says...
Though it’s still early days there does need to be a cause for concern regarding Sunderland’s recent form. Whilst Parkinson can come in for credit regarding Tuesday night’s performance - whereby the chance creation and the manner these chances we’re finished was fantastic - some fans refused to get carried away.
Saturday’s performance was that akin to a Jack Ross side.
Whilst Sunderland held onto the ball for lengthy periods of time, we only created a handful of guilt-edged chances. The quality of chances this weekend was substandard and heavily relied on the players in question to in effect outperform their xG - think Josh Maja all over again.
What concerned me primarily though is the fact Parkinson’s Sunderland haven’t been able to do something Ross’ side had - the ability to almost always find at least one goal. Three games, two blanks.
Looking further forward, there may be even cause for concern if there isn’t a rapid increase in the points per game Parkinson collects. There’s a real fear, born both from reality and possibility, that after 10 games Parkinson could well collect less than 20 points. Whilst these are relatively minor issues, if these things aren’t addressed immediately they could snowball into something much bigger.