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Talking Points: Do Sunderland need to sign a new striker or is Charlie Wyke good enough?

After yet another one-all draw, talk turns towards how we get more creativity and cutting edge into the side. Is Wyke good enough? Is Gooch a striker? And who is Carl Winchester?

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Sunderland drew 1-1 with Hull on Saturday, in a hard fought affair at the Stadium of Light. The visitors took the lead following a mistake from Lee Burge, with defender Reece Burke slotting home from close range. The Black Cats equalised not long after when Aiden McGeady headed home from a Jack Diamond cross.

The result meant Grant McCann’s side remain second in the League One table, whereas Lee Johnson’s team moved up to tenth, leapfrogging Fleetwood. However, Sunderland have now only won one of their last nine League One fixtures, drawing 1-1 in five of them.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet League One
Would VAR have penalised Mallik Wilks for this challenge on Lee Burge?
Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Do Sunderland need to sign a striker in the January transfer window?

During the match against Hull, it was evident Sunderland were lacking a cutting edge upfront, but the argument amongst the fanbase is clear - is Charlie Wyke starved of service, or is he not good enough?

Those pro-Wyke will argue he has scored double figures already this season in all competitions, whereas Will Grigg, Aiden O’Brien and Danny Graham have all failed to score in League One this season.

The 28-year-old is often credited for his high work-rate and is meant to be an influential character within the Sunderland dressing room, but does he contribute enough in the final third to fire the club to promotion?

He currently stands as League One joint-ninth top scorer, averaging a goal every 172 minutes and possesses a 23% conversion rate.

This season his goal return has improved massively on his previous two seasons with Sunderland, but he has failed to deliver the numbers Josh Maja did when Sunderland were serious promotion contenders.

Those who criticise Wyke often highlight his overall lack of involvement in games, arguing he does not link up play effectively or win enough aerially duels for someone of his stature.

He is often branded a target man, but when you analyse his game he is more of a pressing forward or poacher, his game is focused on working hard and his goals usually come from shots and headers from inside the box.

As a result, a prevalent issue currently is that when Sunderland do not put chances on a plate for Wyke, he does not effect the game. He is not someone who can beat players or create his own chances, so then you have to question for a poacher type player does he score enough goals to justify his inability to effect the match elsewhere?

Overall, Sunderland currently possess three strikers who are not scoring, as well as one who divides opinion. Does Lee Johnson need to sign a striker, or can Sunderland meet the target of promotion with the current strikers in the building?

Sunderland v Carlisle United: EFL Trophy
Charlie Wyke has already beat his previous two goal tallies in League One so far this season.
Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Could Lynden Gooch be the short-term answer upfront?

Following the draw against Hull, Johnson alluded to potentially trying Lynden Gooch upfront, a position he used to play earlier in his youth career.

The 25-year-old has always been a utility man for Sunderland, playing on either side of the wing, as a wing-back, in central midfield, as well as the occasional stint as a striker or ten.

The American international publicly expressed his desire to play further forward on Sunderland’s official podcast earlier this season, plus he showed last season he is capable of scoring goals when he achieved double figures.

What Gooch possesses that none of Sunderland’s forwards do is the ability to beat players one-vs-one, he is very direct and loves running with the ball.

Perhaps Johnson is hinting at playing Gooch with McGeady and Diamond either side, meaning Sunderland would have a more athletic front-three who are all capable of beating players and scoring goals.

It would certainly be a gamble, but you cannot fault the manager for wanting to try and fix a problem when clearly Sunderland are not performing well enough in the final third.

On the other hand, it does question how highly Johnson rates Sunderland’s current forward options, which is especially problematic when the club will struggle to move them on in the current financial climate.

Gooch’s two goals against Oxford and Gillingham this season show he is someone who can run with the ball, beat players and score, the question is can he do on a regular basis and become a consistent goal scorer?

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Lynden Gooch scores 10 league goals last season, breaking into double figures for the first time in his career.
Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Where does Carl Winchester fit into the team?

The morning after the Hull result, Sunderland formally announced the signing of Forest Green captain Carl Winchester, who joins the club for an undisclosed fee on a two and a half year deal.

The 27-year-old predominantly operated as deep midfielder this season in League Two, so has he been brought in as a replacement for Grant Leadbitter?

Leadbitter has been reborn this season for Sunderland, after many believed he was past his best, but with an intensive fixture schedule with two games a week likely, it would be sensible to bring in competition for the 35-year-old.

Another position the former Northern Ireland international could be utilised in is one of the two box-to-box midfield roles. Captain Max Power and Josh Scowen have been regular starters under Johnson so far, preferred to George Dobson who seems likely to leave.

Both Power and Scowen have failed to achieve end-product numbers going forward, with neither looking likely to unpick defences or pop up with goals consistently. Could Winchester then have been brought in to replace one of them and add some creativity to the side?

A positive aspect of this move is that Winchester has previously worked with Johnson during a successful spell at Oldham, where the midfielder won player of the season.

It is not a transfer which will excite many, seeing as he came from League Two, but it appears to be a signing fuelled by data analysis and a specific selection of player who can perform a role in the system Johnson seeks to play.

Following his appointment, Kristjaan Speakman discussed a new way of recruiting under the new regime. So, hopefully, Winchester is the start of a new era at Sunderland where intelligent data driven recruitment delivers success.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Carl Winchester
Carl Winchester is highly popular amongst the Johnson family, as he was also signed by Lee Johnson’s Dad Gary for Cheltenham.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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