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Roker Roundtable: What would YOU do to improve Sunderland’s chances of scoring more goals?

In Roker Report’s newest feature, our panel of writers offer up their opinion on what they’d do about Sunderland’s relatively low scoring rate if they were placed into Jack Ross’ shoes.

Sunderland AFC

Whilst we’re still winning games regularly and we’ve scored goals in every league game this season, it’s fair to say we’ve been underwhelming recently from an attacking perspective. What would you do in an attempt to solve Sunderland’s issue with creating more chances and, in turn, scoring more goals?

Jack Ford says...

Too often this season we’ve been incredibly predictable and indirect going forward. I’ve lost count at the amount of times I’ve watched us pass to McGeady or Maguire, who take it out to the wing and instead of playing balls into the box or even taking a shot, spend an age trying to beat two men or playing triangles with each other and the full backs.

We must be a dream to defend against at times. McGeady clearly has bags of talent, but everything goes through him and he seems to telegraph his moves in the final third to an incredible degree.

It’s clear to me how Luton are top of the league scoring so many goals after seeing them against us at the SoL- they have such clear patterns of play with quick passing and movement that we never seem to try.

Although he got the goal on Saturday, and it was a gorgeous finish, it was our first shot on target of the game. McGeady must have had 75% of our attacks in the final third and too often they came to nothing. We need to shake things up, take advantage of our quality all over the pitch, and play to our strikers’ strengths. Charlie Wyke has been poor so far, but how many chances has he had to play his game and attack crosses with pace?

I’d love to see Honeyman play a little bit deeper alongside Leadbitter, and stick O’Nien just off of whichever striker we play. Allow McGeady freedom but don’t play every single attack down the left to him. No wonder the atmosphere is so flat when we seem to be repeating the same attack for 90 minutes!

James Nickels says...

Sunderland are the least attacking, attack-minded team I know. Bear with me for a second. Firstly, we are far too laborious in possession. Our attacking play is far too slow, especially in the earliest phases of build-up play and as a result the opponents are often already settled into their defensive banks of four.

Furthermore, far too much of our own play is reactive and relying upon the players’ individual quality to garner a result.

Hence, when form drops, results do. But why?

Because of our awful chance conversion rate. Now, Maja’s own personal goal-conversion rate was astounding - but that is not what I am getting at here. Take Blackpool away for instance, our last victory away from the SoL in the league. We created an incredible 58 attacks, nearly half of which were created from the opposition half. We dominate teams positionally, placing ourselves so high up the pitch and often winning the ball back in the final third.

This is not necessarily due to high pressing, but more so high positioning.

Jack Ross’ tactics predicates the shape of the team being very high up the pitch in the first place. Yet this led to only 11 shots (18% efficiency), 7 of which on target (11% efficiency) and one goal.

It will take time, but the current crop of players need to be given time in order to learn each others’ playing styles, and if we can improve our speed of play and efficiency of attack, expect this to change.

Sunderland AFC

Damian Brown says...

With the introduction of Leadbitter to the spine of the team, and with the clear talent of O’Nien and the return of Honeyman, I would feel comfortable experimenting with the formation and throwing a spearpoint at our opponents; namely playing Wyke, Grigg and Watmore in a front three supported by McGeady and Morgan on the wings, albeit with a remit to track back (so perhaps Gooch in place of McGeady, in spite of his recent subdued form).

The defence isn’t amazing so it seems risky swapping out to a back 3 but I’m convinced that with Leadbitter sitting in front of them we can saturate the opponents half and not allow them the control they’ve used to build an attack against us so many times this season. The best form of defence is offence as they say.

We’ve got a good keeper between the sticks and a reliable defensive midfielder, and I think our back line could cope with the job so long as we give them less to do, and we’d accomplish that by dominating the game and cranking the pressure up right from the first whistle.

I think we’ve been burned by Lee Camp and that no longer reflects our last line of defence. We can rely on our keeper and we can trust the back line to do their job and to see out games if we only take the burden of constant pressure.

Chris Camm says...

Stooooooop playing two holding midfielders... especially at home. One of Leadbitter, Power or Cattermole is enough.

Personally I’d like to see Leadbitter, Honeyman and Luke O’Nien given a chance together but for that to work then Honeyman and O’Nien need a run of games together to get familiar with how to be a dynamic tandem together.

Trouble with that is can we afford to risk our midfield by letting them figure things out during the run in?

Perhaps Jack Ross will be more inclined to simply tell one of his midfield options to push much higher up the pitch because frankly having two midfielders sat right in front of the centre halves is utterly pointless and is hampering us going forward right now.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Craig Davies says...

For me we’ve become a just a little stale.

Our build up play isn’t direct or dynamic enough for Wyke, it leaves him exposed and isolated. Grigg will be a different kettle of fish but he will still need quick service. For our home games we need to be less cautious.

I’d like to see a change of tactics at the SOL to counteract any set in stone predictability, so we aren’t as easy for the opposition to work out. I’d like a little more pace and dynamism. I’d also like to see some creativity in the middle because we lack a spark there.

Perhaps a back 3 with Baldwin returning. Keep our wide men wide but quick- Morgan/Watmore/ Sterling/ Gooch. A centre 3 - a choice of Power/Leadbitter/ Catts as holders with Honeyman/O’Nien or a more central McGeady supporting Grigg and Wyke who should form a partnership.

One upfront away from home is rightfully precautionary and keeping it right crucial, But at home I believe we can sustain a little more wild abandon.

Neil Green says...

Against Wimbledon everything went down the left with McGeady and James overlapping, even though Morgan looked a real threat. Also Matthews wasn’t overlapping when we did go down the right.

At times McGeady had great chances to switch to the right but turned back into a dead end on his own wing. Was he being selfish or were those the manager’s instructions?

Either way it became predictable and easy to defend, especially with McGeady’s inability to play the ball first time slowing everything down. So more balance across both wings, and get both full backs overlapping (one at a time) so the oppo don’t know where we’re coming from.

The other thing is linking central midfield with attack. O’Nien as a non-stop running link between the two would create more openings. Honeyman can do it too but why not use both? When we attack down the middle have Honeyman and O’Nien bombing on while the full backs stay back.

If it goes out wide one of George Honeyman and Luke O’Nien drop back to cover while the full back overlaps. I don’t think we need two deep central midfielders and its costing us in numbers going forward to create angles to make chances.

Sunderland AFC

Morgan Lowrie says...

The team keep possession very well and Jack Ross seems to take great care in the shape his team plays both in possession and out. Whilst the sentiment ‘why fix it if isn’t broken’ certainly holds weight, Sunderland would benefit from showing a more ruthless streak.

Jack Ross’ side would benefit from showing the willingness to be more direct. That doesn’t just mean lump it long, rather, try to get the ball into strikers feet in less phases/touches, get the full backs higher, and give the wingers balls to run on to.

This then gives space for crosses to come into the box sooner, rather than the existing process of multiple touches between fullbacks and wingers in the corner, allowing defenders to get back into a position and wasting the opportunities of the ball in those channels.

This has the benefit of bringing the best out of Wyke. With Grigg on the scene it remains to be seen what role Charlie will play, but every time he is on the pitch, Sunderland need to play to his strengths to get the best out of him. Being more direct, taking calculated risks in attack and allowing both fullbacks less defensive responsibility will create more opportunities, and hopefully more goals.

Mark Carrick says...

Essentially I’d switch to a back three system. We can now accommodate Flanagan, Baldwin and Dunne as such. The centre halves provide a solid enough foundation whilst releasing wing-backs to advance into wide positions during the attack. Luke O’Nien is the ideal wing-back, whilst James and Oviedo are both adept on the left. In turn, this pushes the likes of McGeady/Maguire/Morgan/Gooch/Watmore inside and offer greater support for the striker.

Two holding players, one more advanced than the other during an attacking phase, maintains a sturdy midfield. McGeouch/Leadbittter/Catts can play deep whilst Honeyman is the obvious partner or perhaps Power. The defensive phase of a game is equally served as players can drop deeper and make two solid banks to frustrate the opposition.

Goals and clean sheets win games!

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