New approach, same problems
Jack Ross experimented last night with his formation and personnel, yet the same problems that have persisted for several weeks remained and Sunderland drew their thirteenth game of the season.
Ross’ midfield selection was adventurous with Leadbitter, Honeyman, Gooch sitting in behind a front three of McGeady, Watmore, and Grigg. However, Gooch looked lost and proved to be ineffective in his new role whilst Leadbitter and Honeyman struggled to dictate play.
Sunderland seem to have forgotten how to play simple football. Passing triangles, movement off the ball, choosing the right opportunity to play the final pass - simple problems that seem to thrive due to a lack of confidence.
As much as it’s frustrating, this is something that can, and will, be remedied. Once Charlie Wyke and Lewis Morgan were introduced, Sunderland found more balance in their play and created better opportunities.
Moving forward, Sunderland need to put the opposition on the back foot far earlier because it’s a style that suits our strengths better than the cautious, conservative play we’ve seen over the course of the past several weeks.
Aiden McGeady is talented, but not indispensable
Yes, Aiden McGeady scores wondergoals that have often saved our blushes this season, but last night proved once again that the former Celtic winger can often be an incredibly frustrating figure who seemingly harms the teams chances in the final third as much as he helps them.
Fans appreciate McGeady’s trickery, but that flair needs to be balanced alongside a more pragmatic side to his play. Instead of a step-over, dummy, or drag back sometimes all that’s required for the good of the team is putting the ball into a threatening area - something McGeady is more than capable of.
The Irishman was withdrawn yesterday evening, and his replacement Lewis Morgan was more effective purely because he played in a manner that benefitted the entire team. Whether it was a ball into the box, or a simple pass to a player in space, Morgan’s play enabled Sunderland to dictate the tempo in the latter stages of the game.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see McGeady spend a couple of games warming the bench as Ross tries to find the personnel capable of helping the rest of the team find success.
Grigg finding the right positions - goals will come
One positive last night was the way in which Will Grigg found himself in the right place to work chances on goal.
Despite missing a couple of golden opportunities, the Northern Irish forward looked relatively sharp, and once Charlie Wyke entered the fray - meaning he had someone closer to him - the former Wigan player really stretched the opposition’s defence.
One major problem we’ve endured all season is the way in which we isolate out lone forward, and in the absence of Josh Maja’s impressive goalscoring ability, that issue has really made itself known.
When Charlie Wyke replaced Lynden Gooch, Sunderland looked far more threatening, partly due to the fact that we were able to link play more effectively from midfield as Blackpool were forced to sit a little deeper in order to handle two forwards.
That being said, moving someone like Luke O’Nien, Lynden Gooch, or George Honeyman into a more advanced role, sitting just behind Grigg, could be just as effective. Personally, I’d like to see McGeouch sit deeper than Leadbitter with Honeyman or Gooch just in behind the striker. Out wide, I’d like to see Honeyman and Morgan given the freedom and space to roam.