Dear Roker Report,
I was at the Coventry game on Saturday and can’t help but think that it looked like Will Grigg was either extremely low on confidence, wasn’t putting in any effort or had been on the pop the night before to me.
Wyke isn’t sufficiently mobile to be the forward that presses, and Grigg seemed unwilling to do so leaving us persistently outnumbered in midfield in particular. I have seen criticism of Jack Ross’ tactics but feel, as much as 4-4-2 is a risk, that he was undermined by his players throughout the centre of the pitch (Oviedo and Morgan perhaps the only 2 to emerge with much credit).
Since injuries have forced us to go 4-4-2 we have got a couple of results but it was largely a failure earlier in the season and on the evidence of Burton and Coventry has to be shelved and we go back to 4-2-3-1.
But who should make way is a tricky one - Wyke’s performances have greatly improved, but he has struggled on his own either due to a lack of confidence or players not getting close enough, but he has been outperforming Grigg in the last few games. WG has been underwhelming in my opinion, I’m unsure whether dropping him might get a positive reaction in the remaining games as well. What are your thoughts?
Ed’s Note [JN]: Much of the issue seemed to steam from midfield, neither Leadbitter nor Power had effective games in the middle of the park and were forced very deep. Whether or not this was to protect the mistake-prone central defenders or because Coventry’s attacking three were so high up, I am not so sure.
That said, to effectively play with six men so deep and still concede five (or to concede five at all) is horrendous. As a result, going forwards there was a 40 yard gap between midfield and attack at nearly all periods of the game.
4-4-2 can work well if the midfield two is disciplined and mobile while the front two press, harry and cut passing lanes effectively.
I agree, Wyke, while impressing most on the day, was almost immobile at times and Grigg seemed totally disinterested. The latter is a funny one, as early on here he seemed to work really hard and play well, but couldn’t score - now it is the total inverse.
What doesn’t help, mind, is the insistence of the defence to supply each striker. Wyke was given a myriad of balls to chase in behind with his pace (sarcasm), while the constant high ball to Grigg allowed him to shine with his back to goal and hold it up well (further sarcasm).
Overall it was a disaster, and to be frank had been coming for a while. I genuinely don’t have a clue what formation or line-up we will play against Doncaster, but I think we can expect to see quite a few changes. They also usually play with two flat banks of four and two up top, but their pressure comes through the middle, trickery out wide in Coppinger and in Marquis have a potent goal threat.
I’d shore the midfield up and drop Grigg - he has been playing badly and we’ll need his impact late on.
Dear Roker Report,
I’ve just read the Podcast article and I would love Hummel to return as kit supplier. I always thought they provided the best quality and design. BUT PLEASE - the middle stripe must be red!
Ed’s Note [JN]: Likewise, their its are some of the best we’ve ever had. Umbro’s were always pretty sharp too, and both manufacturers make some really nice clobber these days anarl.
To be fair I don’t mind which way the stripes go, as long as they cover the front, back and sleeves and are not that awful beach chair look last season or too thick.
The Don was pretty promising on this during the pod, mentioning he’d like to send it out for the fans to decide. I remember when we did this for the Lonsdale away which resulted in that tidy black kit.
Dear Roker Report,
It was an entertaining game to watch, especially if you were a Coventry City fan!
Yes, as far as entertainment value was concerned, including of course some comical play on Sunderland’s part, it was quite a spectacle, certainly for a neutral fan. Still, and doubtless in common with most of the rest of the 36,000 or so present at The Stadium Of Light on Saturday (except maybe the contingent of away fans), it took me a while to get over the utter shock brought about by our 4-5 reverse v Coventry. For I (again, possibly in common with most of the home support), just couldn’t quite comprehend the events which unfolded before my eyes, in the first period at least, when The Sky Blues raced into a 3-1 lead in a comparatively short period of time. Not through any great invention, skill etc. on their part, but due to the sort of defending that would put a local Sunday League side to shame. OK, our visitors were not going to be pushovers, as they have a chance of reaching the League 1 play-offs, and as such needed the three points as much as we did, but still, could any of us Sunderland fans REALLY have envisaged such an outcome?
Saturday was I suppose a milestone of sorts, for it was the first time ever I’ve seen six goals in the first-half of a game involving Sunderland (I do recall seeing six in the second-half of a game v Millwall back in 1992, but that one we won 6-2), while it was also the first time that we’ve conceded five at home in a League game since Manchester United battered us 5-1 at Roker way back in season 1981-82. However, back then we were (old) Division One “fodder” as it were, while United were title contenders, so I guess we did at least have an excuse of sorts for such an embarrassment!
But, back to the present, and I’m afraid Saturday’s showing was simply not good enough, certainly not for a side with promotion ambitions. For whatever the circumstances, no side should score four goals, certainly at home, and still end up on the losing side. OK, we did show character to come back four times, but, should that REALLY have been necessary?
I’ll tell you what, I’d have LOVED to have been “a fly on the wall” of the home dressing room at haft-time, and indeed at full-time, “Premier Passions” in mind!
I guess our first home league reverse of 2018-91 has cast a doubt over out ability to get out of League 1 at the first attempt, for asides from myself, I guess a lot of other folk left The Stadium Of Light on Saturday evening just a shade worried. And of course, one has to ask just why it happened, for it is a bit hard to comprehend. Was it due to promotion jitters and/or such a packed schedule of games? Perhaps more concerning, are we about to “bottle it” after having come so far and having turned around our fortunes quite dramatically? Guess it could only happen at Sunderland, for having got ourselves into a reasonably strong position, i.e. second place, with games in hand and three in succession at home, what happens? We find ourselves more or less back at square one.
As Cilla Black may once have said, surprise surprise!
Doubtless Saturday’s shock result has given Jack Ross plenty of food for thought, especially re his back line, in which case, I imagine it may well be an interesting and maybe busy time next week for the manager and his squad, as they pick over the bones of a rather embarrassing, but (hopefully) not too costly defeat. Even so, we really should have been looking at six points from the Sky Blues and also the Burton game, instead we end up with one.
Not the end of the world by any means, but our next two games at The Stadium Of Light now couldn’t be bigger, especially perhaps the final home League fixture v Portsmouth, and its my guess that on the evidence of the Coventry debacle, that both Doncaster and Pompey are both rubbing their hands in anticipation of three points. Therefore, have we got the resilience and strength of character to now bounce back, as we did recently in successive away games at Accrington & Rochdale, after the Checkatrade Trophy Final setback?
Time and games are now fast running out, and one thing is now certain, we now need to see a positive reaction in the final five League games of 2018-19, if the season is not to go to waste, for given our record in the play-offs and at Wembley in general, I’d not fancy our chances in “the lottery” as it were. Therefore I sincerely hope that Saturday, 13th April 2019 was merely a bad day at the office as far as Sunderland AFC were concerned, our destiny is still very much in our own hands, but our players have surely now got to play as if their lives, or at least careers, depend on it, simple as really. Over to you then lads.
Keeping the faith (as always)
Ed’s Note [JN]: I genuinely believe we will finish the season in the top two - and have done for a while. Games aren’t in our favour but (Pompy aside) we have always performed better against sides higher in the table, and the whole of the bottom half are essentially fighting for their lives.
While Saturday was angry, embarrassing and worrying - one can only hope it is the kick up the backside a few of the Lads desperately needed. Burton was a warning shot, and Coventry saw what to do and did it to aplomb. We must also praise the Lads’ fighting spirit dragging the game back from 1-0 down, 3-1 down and 4-3 down - but unfortunately they couldn’t continue their great run from losing positions.
We have pilfered 27 points from behind this season, the highest in professional football across all of the major European countries - a testament to their character - but to confirm promotion we must arrest this issue. While the stat reads nice, we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in these positions week-after-week.
Most of this is due to a lack of concentration or easy, obvious mistakes in defence. Flanagan and Baldwin have arguably been our best defenders this season, but they are both horrifically error prone at times, and it all came to a head on Saturday with four of their five goals arguably due to the pair’s mistakes.
Baldwin, on his day is easily a mid-level Championship defender, but in every game he has his “mad moment” where he just switches off. I’d change it up and bring in Alim Ozturk, he has impressed since the turn of the year when he got a rare appearance and is a hulking brute. Despite this, he looks significantly fitter than at the start of the season and surely can’t do much more wrong? Like when Oviedo returned, he’ll be chomping at the bit to prove himself, and quite frankly, he simply cannot do any worse.
I trust in Jack Ross, and whenever we have lost the Lads have bounced back with winning runs, and this weekend is the most important of the lot.