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Roker Rundown: Sunderland’s fringe players were unimpressive - fresh blood is needed in January

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After struggling last night against an U21s team, very few of Sunderland’s fringe players will have impressed Phil Parkinson. Fresh blood is needed in January to improve Sunderland’s squad!

Sunderland v Leicester City U21: Leasing.com Cup Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Poor performance offers little food for thought

Last night was a great opportunity for multiple Sunderland players to stake a claim for a starting spot in Phil Parkinson’s plans moving forward. Unfortunately for the Sunderland boss, none of the team’s fringe players really offered a performance to give the gaffer food for thought.

Defensively, the side weren’t particularly troubled aside from Leicester’s two goals. Alim Ozturk was unlucky to succumb to injury, Tom Flanagan was dependable, and Laurens De Bock was solid if unspectacular. Truthfully, Conor McLaughlin struggled somewhat, and gave away a silly penalty; however, with limited options at right back he will be given more chances moving forward.

In central midfield, the Leicester game was a golden chance for both Grant Leadbitter and Dylan McGeouch to really offer a showing that would force Phil Parkinson to give them a chance in the starting eleven. Alas, neither produced the goods.

Up front, Marc McNulty was lively and Duncan Watmore was direct in his running. Benji Kimpioka, though, really struggled to make his mark - disappointing as Parkinson clearly sees something positive in the young Swede’s game.

Sunderland v Leicester City U21: Leasing.com Cup Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Lacking imagination in the middle

Something that has been an issue for large parts of the season - aside from a clear lack of pace in the side - is that Sunderland lack creative players capable of pulling the strings from the middle of the park.

In all honesty, Max Power, Grant Leadbitter, and Dylan McGeouch are all very similar players in that their game is to sit deep, shield the back four and distribute. George Dobson is more of a box-to-box player, but the Sunderland midfield really lacks a creative outlet - someone able to drive forward with the ball and add a little extra quality to the side.

You could also argue that the team is in need of another pacey winger and a clinical forward, but adding some imagination into the middle of the park could be crucial if we are to find success moving forward.

Phil Parkinson has already explained that he intends to play a numbers game by getting the ball into the box from wide areas. Sunderland, though, could do well to add another option to the side - and some quality in the middle of the park could be just what’s needed to give Sunderland more of a cutting edge.

Sunderland v Leicester City U21: Leasing.com Cup Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Parkinson looking ahead to January?

Sunderland face Gillingham at the SoL this weekend in the first round of the FA Cup. The game will present Parkinson another opportunity to experiment and afford opportunities to players he wants to see more of.

However, should Parkinson’s side struggle again this weekend, that could well be the catalyst for the boss to ring the changes this coming January.

All managers will be eager to bring in personnel they think are capable of improving a side, but Parkinson will likely be looking at several players at his disposal and questioning their role within the side.

Unless we see the entire squad show signs of improvement, we could see some significant changes this January as Sunderland look to assemble a side capable of pushing on in the second half of the campaign and seal promotion.