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Talking Tactics: The main flaws in Sunderland’s plan that led to Lincoln embarrassment

This weekend’s defeat away to Lincoln was a particularly poor performance - Sunderland‘s flaws were highlighted by the Imps as more pressure mounts on Jack Ross.

Danny Roberts

It was McLaughlin’s error, but Sunderland were all over the place for Lincoln’s opener

Whilst fingers were rightly pointed at Sunderland ‘keeper Jon McLaughlin for his own goal at the weekend - the former Burton man was too hesitant as he came to intercept Neal Eardley’s through ball - the players in front of him also left a lot to be desired as they were all attracted to Bruno Andrade, leaving the space into which Eardley fed Walker the ball.

As you can see in the still image below, Gooch, Lynch, De Bock and McGeouch have all been dragged out to the left back position. Lynch is right to have tracked the Lincoln forward over as De Bock was occupied with Andrade, but this is when McGeouch should have dropped into the space he left to prevent the gap between Lynch and Willis from becoming too large. It is this area from which Walker managed to run into, pressuring McLaughlin into making a mistake.

Gooch also is slightly at fault for Walker’s goal, although it is hard to criticise him for getting back to help De Bock, who struggled to cope with Andrade all game. The American was too slow to put pressure on Eardley, and left the Lincoln right-back the time and space to chip his through ball over the top. This took all four of these Sunderland players out of the game, allowing Walker, whose clever movement got him ahead of first Willis, to pressure McLaughlin into making the mistake.

This was a deserved goal for Lincoln as Sunderland had never - and would never - managed to get into the game, but from a Sunderland point of view it was also totally avoidable.

Jon McLaughlin’s error, but the defence was all over the pace

The more possession Sunderland have, the less threatening they look

After a couple of games against Sheffield United and MK Dons where Sunderland showed some promise, they were back to prompting feelings of despair, frustration and general irritation as they again looked like a group of strangers without any idea how to break down an opposition which looked to hit them on the break with pace.

The lack of cutting edge in Sunderland’s build up play is summed up nicely by the fact that at the end of the game they had three strikers on the pitch, and still stuck a centre back up there since their target man was incapable of winning a header anywhere near the opposition penalty box.

Sunderland enjoyed 52% possession, and managed the same number of shots on target as Lincoln, yet none of these shots were considered ‘big chances’.

It’s one thing to wonder why Grigg has been so poor at Sunderland, but with Wyke - virtually the opposite type of striker to the former Wigan man - also looking like a shadow of the man who scored 15 league goals for Bradford City, it doesn’t take a mathematician to put 2+2 together and realise that the team as a whole might just be lacking creativity, flair and a general plan of where these strikers are supposed to move to get the ball in goalscoring areas.

Sunderland had a few opportunities to cross the ball into the box on Saturday, something which should have been music to the ears to Charlie Wyke, but our wingers simply don’t have the quality to deliver consistently good crosses into the box for our strikers to profit from.

At the minute, Sunderland don’t look like a team. Their strikers require midfielders who are selfless and look to create, whilst their wingers look to score themselves. Something has to give, because if not it’s a matter of time before another manager has to try and enforce this change.

Sunderland had more of the ball - especially in the second half - but lacked any plan when they were allowed the ball.

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