Q: Sunderland have drawn 18 games this season - an abnormally large amount when you consider we’ve only lost three and reside in the top four. Can you put your finger on why we seem to have struggled to turn those draws into wins, and why that number is so high?
Damian Brown says...
For me it isn’t so much a struggle to turn draws into wins as it is an ability to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat. Half of those games would have ended in a loss if we weren’t doing the basics right, and the ability to come back again and again from a deficit isn’t to be sniffed at.
If you look at the squad I think the answer is relatively straightforward; we lack the edge to kill off games and the spine to hold a lead, more often than not. That’s because we don’t have players fit for purpose.
Grigg and Wyke have both brought qualities to the team that weren’t initially on display, but their goalscoring form is woeful considering their tenure this season. Down the other end in defence we’ve got players that would have to be weighted down on a blustery day lest they be carried away on the wind. I think it’s as simple as that.
People can speak about Ross and his tactics - and to some extent I agree with it; that his timing and decision making isn’t as premium as we’d like from a tactical standpoint - but he’s a good man manager and his tactics are tried and tested in the grand scheme of the game.
In theory with players that can both deliver and collect the long balls he has them play, for example, we’d be sitting comfortably awaiting automatic promotion. But in the absence of those players it’s fair to say he has to make changes and tweaks to the plan, and that’s how the mistakes we’ve recently witnessed many of are made.
For all of our renewed bond as fans and club and for all of our hope and optimism, we’re still fresh out of the hospital on crutches.
It’s been easy to forget the riotous mess that left us in this position because the drive to recover has been so strong, but this squad has been rebuilt, knocked down and rebuilt again several times over.
With more time will we see both the players and manager settle into a comfortable routine where they can read the ebb and flow of the events on the pitch more readily, and thus confidently push ahead. I really don’t believe it’s anything more or less sinister than the hangover from the last ten years.
Craig Davies says...
18 draws are tough to accept regardless of manager, team, tactics or division. That’s 36 points dropped in and of itself - and the true value of those points are incalculable.
But, like all complex things in life, the end result is the consequence of a myriad of circumstances. Yes, Ross has played his part and his tactics have been perceived to be cautious and wary, but he hasn’t missed the sitters or made the terrible mistakes at the back once the whistle has been blown.
Likewise, recruitment was not as thorough or as successful as we hoped.
Our defence has really been our Achilles heel this season. We signed Baldwin as an experienced lower league defender, but we needed four seriously good and physical lower league centre halves, with age and conditioning on their side. We didn’t get the alchemy right and whatever mixture we’ve poured into that defence this year, it hasn’t worked and that puts pressure on everyone. Because of the spirit of the team, which Ross deserves credit for, we’ve managed to drag ourselves over the line despite our back four looking as shaky as a newborn giraffes.
Perhaps some of the £4 million Grigg money could have been preserved for a genuinely good centre half rather than a reasonably decent centre forward, whose goals or contribution has not quite fired us to glory as we’d have hoped. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. However, we can use this season’s errors to guarantee we won’t make those mistakes again next season.
There is no doubt mistakes have been made this year from owners to players and therefore our destination may not be the one perhaps we intended. But you simply can’t ignore the origin of this season’s genesis. This season, for all of its imperfections has been built on the back of a decade of chaos. Of serious financial mismanagement, of administrative anarchy and fan dissatisfaction.
But now we feel like a club again. Like an association, which is why we were created.
We’ve come a long way in one season and our progress wont stop, regardless of what league we are in next season.
Chris Wynn says...
If you break down our 18 draws this season - we’ve come back from behind to gain a point in nine, lost a lead in eight and drew 0-0 once.
Add to the fact we have come from behind to win games in six of our twenty-two victories (including the first three of the season) and tat means almost a third of our points tally have come from losing positions.
For me this highlights two things - the first being an incredible team spirit that has built in the squad this year. Considering where it all started, with players not wanting to even turn up at the training ground, this is an incredible achievement that has helped us achieve the position we currently hold.
Secondly, it points to just how poor and fragile we have been in defence since the opening day of the season, with Loovens and Ozturk starting for us at the back.
The high risk strategy of Loovens helping a Baldwin/Flanagan/Ozturk throughout the season hasn’t came to fruition, and January saw us bring in another younger player instead of replacing the older head.
In hindsight it doesn’t take a genius to see that this has back fired.
Our team spirit has had to bail our fragile back four out time and time again. Tactics can negate this risk but only so much can be done to stop individual errors. Unfortunately it’s about getting the best out of whatever combination is selected at the back until we can sort it out in the summer.
It just means the run-in will be a fine balance between that team spirit holding up against our central defenders upping their game.
Squeaky bum time doesn’t even begin to describe it.