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Talking Points: Has Sunderland’s fitness improved? Lack of quality shows - signings badly needed

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Are we starting to see the impact of Nick Allamby on the squad’s fitness? Will we address the issue with lack of quality in Sunderland’s squad? And, how bad was the ref? Here’s your post-Fleetwood Talking Points.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Kevin Barnes - CameraSport via Getty Images

Effort and desire there again

Just like in the game against Doncaster, I think that it’s important that we give the team credit for their persistence and endeavour. There were many things in the performance that deserve to be pulled apart, but they did at least do the bare minimum expected of them when it comes to work rate on and off the ball.

I think that probably comes down to a few things. One, the players are benefiting from consistency in selection. Parkinson has tried to mainly stick with the same players in the same system and as such they’re learning their positions and becoming more comfortable. The other is regarding our fitness - we look like we’ve got a little more fuel in the tank than we’ve had previously, and that will of course help during a busy period of games where other sides, like Fleetwood, are perhaps more stretched than we are when it comes to the options they have to choose from.

It also helps that players who slow us down considerably - like Grigg and Leadbitter - are not starting games. I wince as soon as I see their names anywhere near the team sheet because you know you’re in for a painfully slow 90 minutes of football.

I’ve said it before, but placing importance on fitness and work-rate will carry you through most games at this level. It’s why Wycombe are so far up the table.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One
Sunderland look fitter - is Allamby starting to have an impact?
Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Lack of quality shines through

That said, the reason we didn’t win the game in my opinion is because of our complete and utter lack of quality. Despite the fact we worked extremely hard, we never really tested the Fleetwood goalkeeper enough and when we did have good chances we fluffed them.

We attempted to overload Fleetwood from wide areas with crosses from deep, but most of the time the good deliveries were headed away because we either didn’t have enough men forward, or because Charlie Wyke just isn’t capable of challenging aerially.

Luke O’Nien and Chris Maguire both ballsed up really good chances that a clinical finisher would have stuck away without breaking sweat.

We also can’t keep relying on Denver Hume to provide the majority of our attacking balls into the box. Eventually teams will work him out and we’ll be stuck without a plan B.

That’s really the main reason why we don’t win enough games.

This transfer window is absolutely key.

We need AT LEAST one striker. I say that because despite the fact we already have three, none of them have proven that they’re good enough, and we can’t just hang our hopes on whoever we do sign coming in to provide a spark.

We’re desperate too for a winger, someone with raw pace that has a trick in them. Currently our attacking midfield options are too samey, and the only quick wide-man we have is the hugely ineffective Duncan Watmore, whose end product and conversion rate is not befitting of a man who earns over twenty-thousand pounds a week.

We also need someone like Hume but on the right hand side. And that’s just for starters. There’s more needed - like a left back, a centre back and a central midfielder - and I’m worried that we won’t strengthen the squad to the level required.

Hopefully I’m proven wrong. It’s not a stretch by any means when I say that our chances of promotion hinge on the success of this transfer window.

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

The ref was abysmal

Match official Anthony Backhouse gave one of the worst refereeing performances that I have seen since we arrived in the third tier - a pretty bold statement considering just how bad the majority of the senior officials are that we’ve had the misfortune to come across.

The decision by the referee to award Fleetwood a penalty was absurd. He was stood right in front of the players as they came together, yet still decided that a foul had been committed when everyone else watching could see that it hadn’t.

I know they say that these things even themselves out across the season but Sunderland certainly seem to get more bad refs than good refs, and as we’ve fallen down the footballing pyramid things have gone from bad to worse.