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Debate: What have we learned about Sunderland after Tuesday night’s performance?

What have we learned about Sunderland after Tuesday night’s performance, and how can we take that into Sunday’s massive promotion clash with Coventry?

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

TOPIC: Tuesday’s performance was perhaps a reminder for Sunderland that they cannot become complacent, particularly against good teams. Coventry offer a different test entirely to Fleetwood. What have we learned about ourselves after Tuesday’s draw/performance, and what about it can we take into Sunday’s match?

James Nickels says...

Hopefully it’s going to be a reminder not to take any game for granted.

The lads started sluggish and even Parky admitted in his post-match press conference that possibly even a little arrogant. We need to stay grounded and take every game with as much importance as each other.

The biggest takeaway, however, is to take note of how we dealt with Fleetwood’s high press. They don’t tend to play like that but underlined a way to stop Sunderland is to stop the supply lines from the central defenders to the midfield. Barton’s whole early tactic was to harass us on the ball and cut the central defenders’ passing lanes. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this tactic, with arguably Russell Martin at MK Dons the first to figure us out.

However, as the game wore on, we upped the tempo to a level they could not compete with. Most sides in this league can’t. Our fitness levels are among the highest in the division and it showed, as Fleetwood tired an equaliser became inevitable - should the Lads keep calm and keep to their game. And indeed it did eventually come right at the last.

Coventry do play a high-pressure, intense game. They harass you and then counter at pace. The biggest lesson we learned is to up our own tempo to combat this. Our midfield pair started far too static but as the game wore on utilised an effective counter press through their constant movement coming short to get the ball from Alim Ozturk.

If we want anything from Sunday, we cannot start so lackadaisically, or we’ll be punished.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Phil West says...

The most important thing we can take from Tuesday night’s performance is that we simply cannot go into any game with complacency or overconfidence. The fact that we have been on a good run recently will ultimately count for nothing if we approach the next game with an attitude that is anything less than 100% correct. Promotion will not be handed to us, and I hope that this message is being repeated regularly between now and the Coventry game. Training, I hope, will be intense, and the players should approach the game with the belief that, if we win, promotion via the automatic places is very much within our grasp.

Possible complacency aside, I was impressed with the doggedness and persistence we demonstrated on Tuesday, particularly after conceding so early and being (largely) outplayed and outwitted for the majority of the game. Digging out a point at the death is always a mini-triumph, particularly when we are mounting a bid for promotion, and our willingness to battle until the final whistle blows is a very positive sign. As Roy Keane once said, when you’re a goal down at home, you take what you can get, and this was proven emphatically on Tuesday.

I believe that Tuesday’s draw will have sharpened up the players, and Phil Parkinson, ahead of the Coventry game. He’ll know that his selection and tactics must be spot on, and the players will know that a major improvement in all areas will be needed. Sometimes a little jolt, a warning shot, can be healthy for a team who are aiming to achieve something significant at the end of a season. Tuesday’s performance could well be the final spark we need to get on a run that will ultimately end successfully.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Phil Butler says...

I’d say the main thing we need to take into Sunday’s match is that a change in either formation or style of play could be needed against the better teams in the division.

For all Sunderland dominated the ball for the majority of the game against Fleetwood, I can’t help but think that against better teams Parkinson should be starting with an extra man in midfield, especially since Tuesday’s display was hardly a one-off case of where Sunderland have failed to reach the same standards of performance as they do so frequently against league one’s bottom feeders. Oxford and Portsmouth are two previous examples of where Sunderland’s midfield especially have struggled to control the game, and whilst this wasn’t a specific issue against Fleetwood after the away side scored, it would surely be beneficial for Sunderland to control possession for the first quarter of the match before then looking to expand and create more goal scoring chances.

It will be interesting to see whether Parkinson makes any changed for the game on Saturday lunchtime, but I wouldn’t be surprised especially given his post-match comment where he mentioned how close he was to making a change for the midweek game.

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