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What did we learn during Sunderland’s opening League One fixture?

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We ask our panel if there were any lessons to be taken from Sunderland’s opening day home draw against Bristol Rovers and if there’s much chance of us learning from them - let us know what you think!

Sunderland v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

What did we learn during Sunderland’s opening League One fixture?


Gary Engel says...

It is difficult to put too much onus on one match, granted. However, when the story never seems to change, perhaps there is plenty we can read into just one game.

As we can all see, time and again clubs like Bristol Rovers turn up at the Stadium of Light prepared for a smash and grab. Too often they leave happy with a point while we’re all left shaking our heads in dismay at another two points dropped. The concern is we’ll still be writing this in November 2020 and – if we blow another season – we’ll be saying it yet again in November 2021.

I only impress so glumly, because it is clearly our Achilles heel, plain for all of League One to see. As some of the great men in football have said, football is a simple game, which we need to embrace at this level.

Our midfield didn’t seem to truly control things as would be expected. But the lack of quality in the final third is the biggest concern. Still, we should have the firepower to manage more than one goal per game at home. We should be frightening teams in this division, but we’re not. We need to impress our superiority – not just talk about it.

Sunderland v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Danny Graham in action against Bristol Rovers
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

It’s going to be a very long season given the clamour for change that has proceeded Saturday’s draw. I am against repeating the mistakes of previous years and decades and the managerial merry-go-round at this stage of the season.

We learnt on Saturday that Burge has a mistake in him, that does not make him a bad goalkeeper, but he was largely untested for most of the game. The three at the back had an awkward afternoon given the largely dull Bristol Rovers attack.

The 3-4-2-1 formation looked clumsy and a tad ponderous against a hard-working opposition who sat back after taking the lead, and it became obvious that we lacked pace.

Parkinson changed to 4-4-2, and we looked a tad more effective. So we did learn that Parky will change formation and that the team were able to do this and rescue a point.

Did we learn that Parky still does not know his strongest 11? It is reasonable to think it will take him a little time to work this out. Once again we have evidence that Grigg is not an effective lone striker, however, he did look leaner, fitter and ran some intelligent lines.

The midfield remains a conundrum. We have seen enough of Power and Dobson together to see that creativity from the middle of the park will continue to be an issue if these are the two that Parkinson persists with. No doubt the lesson continues on Saturday.

Sunderland v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Will Grigg
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Jack Howe-Gingell says...

We learned that Parkinson still hasn’t learned.

It was the same old dull team selection, and the same old deficiencies reared their ugly head.

Parkinson seems unwilling to try out other players, particularly those who impressed in pre-season.

Scowen was a notable absentee, only making the bench despite three assists and a goal in midweek. Parkinson seems hell-bent on having a water carrier such as Dobson sitting in front of the backline, when we need someone dynamic. Scowen has shown his ability to play this role and deserves a chance, hopefully Dobson’s suspension will allow for this.

The absence of both Jack Diamond and Dan Neil was a sucker punch – both have shown they have promise, yet can’t even make the match day squad, let alone the bench. It seemed bizarre that Parkinson wanted both Wyke and Graham on the bench, and once again showed his unwillingness to be bold when we so desperately need a shot in the arm.

We need to stop concentrating on ‘dominating’ and make sure we are winning games – or it will be another cack season.

Sunderland v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One
George Dobson receiving a red card on the opening day of the season against Bristol Rovers
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Malcolm Dugdale says...

For me, we learned very little that we didn’t already know.

We were reminded of the fact that we cannot make stupid mistakes and get away with them.

We also were reminded we can get red cards when other teams may not – the opposition two-footer in about the 15th minute would be a red all day in most games, but then Dobson’s wasn’t exactly something to complain about.

Rather than providing new conclusions, the afternoon simply reminded us of where we are lacking. One key reminder being we cannot endlessly rely on screamers from Maguire to bail us out, as even he had a poor game other than his goal.

Being a ‘glass half full’ guy I am hopeful our performance can change across the up-coming games, but the concerns from last year are still around :

1. We have players with capabilities available but in order to test that they need to set foot on the pitch.

2. Our manager is over-reliant upon a set of lads who didn’t cut it last time and is resistant to change, but that also needs to change for our future to change with it.

3. We cannot play long ball footy without a hold up forward on the field, and if you play people like Grigg and O’Brien you need to service them from midfield and out wide.

Hopefully, this all gets fixed versus Oxford, if not, we will be very lucky to come away with a point again.

Sunderland v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Aiden O'Brien
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images