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Talking Tactics: Phil Parkinson has to think long and hard about Sunderland’s toothless attack

Only when Phil Parkinson switched to wide players capable of stretching Coventry’s defence did Sunderland look threatening. As such, our manager must analyse his choice of personnel in attack.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

From the first whistle on Saturday it was crystal clear that Sunderland weren't looking to play tiki taka football, and instead wanted to get the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible.

Now that is all well and good, and I have nothing against sides which employ a direct style of play, especially in the lower leagues, but the eleven players that started the game on Saturday afternoon simply weren't suited to this.

Will Grigg isn't the type of aggressive, chaser of lost causes that is required for teams that use long-balls in their build up play. To play a direct style of play you either need an old fashioned Quinn and Phillips big man little man partnership up front or, if you want to play 4-3-3, you need at least 2 of those attackers to look to get in behind the opposition defence. Sunderland had neither.

This brings me onto the second fault with Sunderland's starting forwards - Maguire and McGeady can't start together as the two wide players. In a 4-2-3-1 with plenty of incisive running and energy in the other two forward positions, then maybe it could work.

However, in a three man attack alongside Grigg - who also doesn't offer much running - playing long-ball football, McGeady and Maguire don't press well enough. They look to come short when long balls from deep were consistently looking for players running in behind.

Add to this the fact that Maguire in particular was abysmal, and it's no surprise that Sunderland's play improved when the energy of Watmore, then of the goalscorer Kimpioka, was introduced.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Dave Howarth/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Of course the sample size is small, but Watmore's willingness to run at opposition defenders and retain his place out wide to stretch the play helped Sunderland look much more threatening.

So, whilst the goal may not have been deserved, the pattern of play in the second half showed that it was likely going to be Sunderland who got the second goal of the game.

Furthermore, Watmore's pace and energy didn't only help Sunderland create chances when they had the ball, but it also helped them to press Coventry into giving the ball away, which resulted in Sunderland sustaining more and more attacks in the final 10 minutes of the game.

Led by the aforementioned Watmore and Kimpioka, the Lads gave Coventry no time on the ball and somehow, after playing long-balls up to a small striker, and not even trying to keep the ball after Coventry's corners, Sunderland finished the game with more possession than the away side.

That's why stats don't always tell us the full story.

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