Whilst it is fair to say that Jack Ross’ main tactic during his reign at Sunderland has been to exploit the wide areas of the pitch, too often in the past Sunderland have looked to do this exclusively through their fullbacks, with the wingers coming inside to allow this to happen.
However, at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, the wingers - Gooch and Maguire - remained wide during Sunderland’s build up play, meaning that when the full backs did get forward this resulted in an overload against MK Dons’ wingbacks, rather than clogging up the central areas.
Now, rather typically, neither of Sunderland’s goals came through crosses into the box from wide positions, but the wide positioning of the wingers did contribute to both goals by creating the space from which first Power and then O’Nien put Sunderland two goals ahead by half time.
For Power’s goal, Maguire coming short but staying wide, which gave Wyke the room to drift wide left the space in the inside left channel from which Power took his first time shot into the top corner - under Sunderland’s previous set up this space would have been too crowded for Power to run into, and Maguire would have been inhabited by Maguire, with both Gooch and O’Nien near by. However, when Maguire and Gooch stay wide, and O’Nien is pushed alongside Wyke, the space in front of the 18-yard box is open for Sunderland’s box-to-box midfielder to push forward from midfield.
Is this the Max Power we thought we’d signed?
Max Power made it two goals in as many games as he followed up his brilliant strike at Bramall Lane on Wednesday with an even better strike at the Stadium of Light back in the league. The former Wigan man is starting to show the form we saw in his early games in red and white - before all of those sending offs.
I mentioned above how the width Sunderland’s wingers played with gave Power the room to run into the space from which he scored his goal, and looking back this is similar to how Sunderland started last season - when Power last looked like a genuine box-to-box player.
Just a few weeks ago I had accepted he was simply a one-paced defensive-minded midfielder who may chip in with the odd goal from range, however his performances over the last week have shown has the ability to act as the main man in the middle of this Sunderland team. Alongside Dylan McGeouch, who is happy to sit deep and break up play, Power has the freedom to get in and around the penalty area.
If Sunderland continue with this formula, I expect Power to score a few more goals between now and the end of the season.