Q: If you were the Sunderland manager, who would YOU start up front against Oxford United, and why?
Craig Davies says...
Against Oxford you can’t look past McNulty.
He’s the only striker from the main three who’s shown energy, drive and an eye for goal in recent weeks. If you drop a guy who has just scored a hattrick for anyone who’s been out of form for months on end, then as a manager you put yourself under massive pressure straight away - and goodness knows that Jack Ross is already under massive pressure before a league ball has been kicked.
As we all know, Ross is a pragmatist who shrinks to a conservative and less ambitious tactical game plan when he’s under strain and compressed by intense expectation.
He scored lucky to an extent last season with Maja, who showed a bit of ambition pre-season and was in essence a lucky sub for an injured Charlie Wyke. Ross didn’t buy him or longingly look at him as part of a long term plan. It pleasingly happened and it was brilliant while it lasted. Even with £4 million in his pocket - an insane amount for League One - Ross couldn’t replace an impressive graduate from our academy.
As the pressure of Grigg’s price tag weighed upon him and the stress of an underwhelming star man grew, Ross and his expansive game plan became less free flowing and more pragmatic every week.
As important as Oxford is this weekend, finding a winning formation and successful formula for our strikers will be a defining factor in Jack Ross’s future this season. He spent a bucket load (comparatively for League One) on Wyke and Grigg so he must show us his mettle, his creativity and man management and get the best out of two League One strikers who he believed could make the difference and help secure promotion.
If he fails to do that he’ll find to it tough to excuse or explain. If he does, then he will deserve a prolonged tenure as manager of our great club.
So roll on Oxford, and roll on the entire season. As always I’m excited and optimistic and hope that McNulty and Kimpioka add the pace and drive we lacked last year.
Tom Atkinson says...
I think this is a simple one to answer, unfortunately.
Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg are seemingly out of form at the moment - their dry spell continuing into pre-season after a difficult end to the campaign. That’s not to say they won’t come good in the weeks and months, but at present they don’t look like having the confidence to hit the ground running.
For Wyke I think it’s as much the team’s issue as his own. He needs wide players to supply him, and Sunderland don’t play in that fashion. Grigg, on the other hand, is seemingly an enigma at present. Lethal at this level in the past, he’s struggled terribly since signing. He shows nice touches and links play quite well, but we bought him to score and he simply hasn’t been able to do that on a regular basis. It could be a tactical issue, or he might still be struggling to simply find his feet at the club - either way, it’s hard to make a case that he immediately starts this weekend.
As such, McNulty looks like the man to lead the line this weekend - largely based on the fact that he bagged a hat-trick against Hartlepool in our final game of this summer’s preparations. Strikers are largely confidence players and he will be brimming with it after that kind of performance. He’s busy, can make things happen on his own, and looks to be excited at this opportunity that has been presented to him.
I really want all three to come good, but at present it’s our newest addition that seems closest to being the striker we need this season.
Mark Carrick says...
It’s a simple thing, this football management malarkey. Sign players who have won promotion from this league before, who have scored for fun, who have captained League One sides in the past. Put them all in the famous red and white stripes and bring in an up and coming manager to guide them.
Only it isn’t that simple, as last year showed.
A team is far more than a collection of individuals.
For all Charlie Wyke’s record at this level is impressive, we simply don’t play with wingers banging crosses into the box or an effective number ten playing off Wyke’s knock-downs.
Will Grigg arrived injured but how long can that be the excuse before we see this lethal predator in action? Or has he simply had his day and we’ve over-payed massively for a striker who is now past his best?
Whatever the excuses, I haven’t seen enough from either of them in months, let alone pre-season, to think either is going to score one, let alone bang six, past Oxford.
Now I’m not about to call Marc McNulty out as some kind of saviour, but he’s arrived with fire in his belly, a desire to show what he can do and smashed a hat trick past Hartlepool. He worked well in Ross’s preferred formation, with a fluid movement amongst Maguire and McGeady, and immediately looked comfortable with the role he was asked to play.
”It’s only Hartlepool” I hear you cry, but you can only beat what’s in front of you and Grigg certainly isn’t beating anyone right now.
Maybe, with this energy and desire on show Sparky needs to start against Oxford, but also it acts as a signal to Grigg and Wyke that they’ll not have it easy this year - especially when they aren’t producing the goods.