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What on Earth should Phil Parkinson do on Tuesday to change Sunderland’s fortunes?

What on Earth does Phil Parkinson do for the game on Tuesday? Are there any tactical/formation tweaks he could make, or personnel changes that would improve Sunderland?

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

Q: What on Earth does Phil Parkinson do for the game on Tuesday? Are there any tactical/formation tweaks he could make, or personnel changes that would improve us?

Steve Tiltman says...

As a result of dreadful summer transfer business, Sunderland have built a team that is easy to defend against. The opposition have us sussed out. They know that if they press, and maximise the isolation of the striker, we have no answer.

Simply trying to increase the number of crosses into the box, as appears to be Parkinson’s strategy, is flawed. Our build up play is painfully slow. By the time the delivery eventually arrives, the box is packed with opposition players and, generally, only one or two of our own. Add to this the fact that many of the crosses are poor in quality and, those that aren’t, are perfectly placed for Wyke – who isn’t playing.

The personnel we play and the system we have are not delivering in the final third, this is abundantly clear. We are boring, predictable and slow. How about Parkinson tries to make us exciting, unpredictable and fast? Maybe start Watmore as a second striker and give Kimpioka a role in the gap between the central midfielders and Watmore.

It would force us to play a narrower game but would certainly inject pace and give the opposition a headache they won’t be expecting. Grigg might even get a few more balls to his feet within shooting distance of the goal. Fancy that.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Michael Graham says...

I’d like to see Parkinson object some mobility and pace into the attack, so starting Duncan Watmore would be a good start. Watmore is a cut above League One level so if he can run, he should be starting. Manage his fitness if need be, but get him on the pitch when a game can be won, not just when it could be saved.

Kimpioka is pushing for a start now too, and it really should be a case of McGeady OR Maguire so they don’t stand on opposite wings trying to out-dummy each other all game. McGeady in a number ten role would be my preference but not sure that’s happening any time soon.

The most important answer though is that Parkinson needs to stay calm and trust his methods. We can argue all day long about whether he was the right man for the job or if we still want him, but the fact is that his methods have worked for him before, and he’s not going to do himself justice by losing sight of them now.

The Stadium of Light can be a very unforgiving place, and we’ve seen better managers than Parkinson lose themselves in the demands of a frustrated crowd, which is what we - rightly - have at the moment.

If Parkinson is to have any chance here, now is not the time for rolling the dice and gambles. It’s time for cool heads and trust in his convictions and credentials, because he’s certainly not going to blag his way to a successful career here.

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

Tom Albrighton says...

What Phil Parkinson does on Tuesday will define his tenure as a Sunderland manager. Fail to win, and he may find himself out of work before the January window opens. The regression in this side under Parkinson has been horrendous.

How does Phil fix it? Well, therein lies the question, but to get the best from this side he has to break the habit of his entire managerial career. If he can’t adapt or won’t adapt, then it’s better for everyone if he walks away now.

The first key is finding a means by which we keep the ball along the floor. The average height of this assembled side is small, with Parkinson’s predecessor having a preference for the smaller, technical, more agile players. To do this, his first priority has to be to get McGeouch and O’Nien in the heart of the midfield. It’s been weeks and weeks of long balls and whipped crosses into Grigg, and it just doesn’t work.

His second key has to be finally realising we cannot carry both Maguire and McGeady simultaneously - it’s very much one or the other, especially with Parkinson’s insistence on playing them both out wide. Whilst mercurial talents, neither is particularly fond or adept when facing their own goal. One option is to relieve at least one of these men of their defensive duties by playing them more freely within the number 10 role.

I think the final key, which merges the two points above quite neatly is a change in system. As a side we are continually caught out by pace and tenacity which has led me to, for weeks, scream for a midfielder to screen the defence in a Jan Kirchhoff type role. That role then can be occupied by McGeouch, or even if Parkinson so wishes, Leadbitter. Using this screen should effectively encourage us to play the ball short and along the floor.

Using the tenacity of both O’Nien and Power in the middle with a number 10 to help them link should see us well covered in midfield, even without George Dobson available. A midfield three with a ’screening’ midfielder will also allow our full-backs, particularly Hume, to use his pace and dribbling ability to maraud forward without exposing the defence too much.

Lastly, utilising a front two ahead of whoever plays number 10 would help Grigg, purely by means of occupying another defender. Allowing Kimpioka alongside offers us somewhat of a little and large combination, but also a player with blistering pace to stretch and run the line, in turn playing to Grigg’s primary strength of getting into the right areas at the right time, namely the 18-yard box.

Although misfiring, Grigg knows his chances are few and far between leading him to snatch hopelessly at easy chances, Saturday’s 1-on-1 miss was testament to that. If we can start to provide Grigg with a steadier stream of chances in the right areas, I have no doubt we’ll see him start to return goals at the rate we assumed when he signed.

A few weeks ago I wrote a roundtable response saying how Parkinson must be a gambling man, takes risks and be proactive rather than reactive. So far, advice has not been heeded. This is now the time Phil has to gamble - he doesn’t have much time left if the current form continues. Burton Albion may be the game he can buy himself some breathing space which will only come if he’s willing to break the habits of a lifetime.

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