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Why has Sunderland’s season gotten off to a stuttering start? Here are just FIVE suggestions...

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“Sunderland have undoubtedly started their season slowly - on that I think we can all agree. So what might be the reasons underlying this?” says David Holloway.

Ipswich Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

1: The hangover

Last season was a marathon that drained players, management and fans alike - a sixty-one game season that ended in injury time heartbreak, occurring what feels like just a couple of weeks ago.

Could some of the players still be recovering physically and mentally from that?

If so they need to get over it, and quickly.

2: Are we undercooked?

Pre-season felt very short and the few number of pre-season games raised eyebrows.

Was this a deliberate decision taken off the back of last seasons exertions?

Maybe it will benefit us later on as players regain strength a few games in, but the fear must be however that we continue to have to run to catch up and we never do.

Only time will tell us the answer to that one.

Ipswich Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

3: Are we over-complicating it?

We are League One, and we have a League One squad.

Is the change in formation just confusing the players?

“Football is a simple game complicated by idiots” is a quote which comes to mind, but we played our best football under Ross last season with the mindbogglingly lopsided 4-4-2, whatever that was.

However, when things get tough, keeping it simple would seem to be the most appropriate solution.

4: An unbalanced squad

It’s clear that we are short of specialist full backs and a physically dominant centre back. Perhaps this will be remedied if we can shift a couple out - will this be possible?

Also, we still have too many players who don’t really fit a structure.

Duncan Watmore, for example - how do you accommodate him? Is Luke O’Nien a full back, a midfielder or a 10? I have no idea. Is Chris Maguire a striker, a wide man or a 10?

To get the best out of Aiden McGeady I would argue that you need to build the team around him, can we? Should we? What if he is unavailable or out of form?

Can Will Grigg play up on his own? CanMarc McNulty? I don’t know. Too many unanswered questions, too many talented players who may be the odd man out.

That makes management more difficult.

5: Lack of aggressive intent

This can be witnessed in our play.

I’m not thinking about players smashing into tackles necessarily, more the aggressive run, the neck-straining effort to head a ball, the shaking of the fist and also the demeanor of the manager. It all feels uncertain, pragmatic and overly scientific.

Those who work hardest - and, to be frank, have the biggest balls - succeed in this game, and I’m not sure we are seeing evidence of that swagger or attitude enough.