Would you have taken a point from this game before a ball was kicked?
Charlton are going to improve as the season goes on, but playing them when we did was perfect timing for Sunderland, and we failed to take full advantage.
That’s the best we’ve played this season in my opinion, yet we still weren’t able to convert our chances into goals, and we struggled to take full advantage of Charlton’s current situation. They’ll lose to worse teams than Sunderland over the coming weeks.
But, prior to the season starting I think I would have settled for an unbeaten start to the first four games. We’ve got eight points on the board, three clean sheets from four games, and the one goal that we have conceded was from a penalty.
Phil Parkinson is experienced and won’t turn up his nose at a point away from home.
Come the end of the season, these results could prove pivotal.
Graham’s the one for me
Look, I know as well as everyone else who watched on Saturday that Danny Graham should have scored at least once in the first half. The one at the back post from Josh Scowen’s fantastic cross was simple - he should have tapped it in.
But, I think there are genuine positives to take from those misses.
Crucially, Graham’s positioning and movement - the fact he was in the positions to get on the end of those crosses/passes and fashion opportunities is a reason to feel optimistic.
I don’t believe that any of the other three strikers - well, that’s maybe unfair to Will Grigg actually - would have got themselves into those positions. Graham’s played most of his career either at the top end of the Championship or in the Premier League, and as such you’d expect those uncoachable traits to occasionally shine through.
His career statistics show he’ll score you a goal every three games - that’s a decent enough haul for a target man. Problem is, he needs to be starting every week.
Hopefully, now he’s had plenty of time to bed in, he’s fit enough to start more often. I think that, despite his misses, Graham showed enough to suggest he’s the man we ought to persist with up top.
Flanagan shows his bad side
Tom Flanagan has attracted a lot of praise for his start to the season, and rightly so, but on Saturday we saw the occasionally ugly side to his game.
His passing was awful, and his positioning for the offence which led to his red card was criminal.
We’ve kept a tonne of clean sheets with Flanagan in the team. He’s one of Sunderland’s most experienced players and that isn’t mentioned often enough - he’s got a handful of promotions on his CV, and in his third season at the club he’s one of the most seasoned campaigners in the squad.
But, I can’t pretend that I’m not happy to see an opportunity created for Arbenit Xhemajli. I’m excited to see what he’s capable of and I doubt he would have played much before Christmas if Flanagan had continued to stay fit and out of the bad books of referees.
I’m not writing Flanagan off by any means, but he’s now facing a fight for his spot in the side - and in a defence that has been, to this point, watertight, that can only be a good thing.
One thing’s clear - we lack variety in attack
Phil Parkinson’s solution to changing our fortunes in front of goal during the game was to throw on two strikers for two strikers.
Wyke for Graham was ‘like for like’ in that they’re both big lads, and Grigg going on for O’Brien was, I suppose, an attempt to get someone else on the pitch who likes to lurk round the 18 yard box and wait for loose balls.
Sadly, Flanagan got sent off, meaning Grigg had to play wide.
Regardless - those were our two attacking options, and you couldn’t say with a degree of certainty that we would have successfully altered our attacking approach as a result.
It’s clear to me that we lack variety in attack.
Jack Diamond is an out-and-out winger, and we don’t play with those.
That aside... who is there?
We need a powerful, quick forward who can carry the ball over 20 yards and push the team forward. It’s so bloody obvious, yet I can’t believe we are in October and haven’t addressed it.
I noted that Marcus Browne is available on loan again - if we don’t throw absolutely everything at signing him then we’re a bunch of mugs, because he’ll only go to another League One club and do well. He’s proven at this level and was Oxford’s best player last season.