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Reader’s Corner: Victory away at AFC Wimbledon could get Sunderland’s season back on track

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In this edition of Reader’s Corner, Jack Dodds looks at the elements that Lee Johnson will need to improve to take advantage of Wimbledon’s weaknesses at Plough Lane on Saturday.

Sunderland v Port Vale - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It’s clear to say our main problem this season has been a lack of goals, but where does the problem lie?

To me, it’s a lack of creativity; against Hull we managed just 3 shots on target despite having 61% possession. Compared to Doncaster, who have the highest goals scored to games played ratio in League 1 this season, who managed 3 shots on target despite only having 44% possession against Hull, proving to be ruthless when on the ball.

4-3-3 with a defensive midfielder can be a great system, but is it right for us? To create, either midfielders or wingers need to come close to the striker and support, meaning either the full backs are required to join the attack as the wingers cut inside, or the central midfield need to be energetic. But, with the likes of Connor McLaughlin at full back who doesn’t have the attacking prowess to challenge teams offensively, and the likes of Scowen in midfield who are more suited to providing value to the team defensively, the striker is isolated causing a lack of link-up play.

Taking a look at O’Brien’s opener on Tuesday, it was Gooch’s presence in a central area of the final third that led to the link-up play between him and O’Brien. A change of personnel in midfield could add that bit of extra creativity that we are desperate for to unlock the door and get chances to Wyke, who with double figures in all competitions this season and returns such as a brace at Lincoln, has proven that he can score goals if we can get chances to him.

Sunderland v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One
Joe Piggot, wearing 39, celebrates scoring from the penalty spot for Wimbledon against Sunderland in December, 2020
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Managed by former Newcastle player Glyn Hodges, Wimbledon tend to play 4-5-1 with the focus being target man Joe Piggot, who scored against us last time round at the SoL, and is currently the 3rd highest scorer in League 1 this season, scoring 10 and assisting 4 in just 19 league games. Sat a point above the relegation zone and off the back of three consecutive defeats, with their only point being against us in the last six league games, could this be the perfect time to play them?

As previously mentioned, our main problem lies in scoring goals, but with us about to match-up against a side who have conceded an average 1.65 goals this season, our struggling attack may be able to find their feet and bag a few goals to set a different tone to the rest of the season, following on from Tuesday. In terms of previous meetings, our form has been very successful. Despite the disappointing 1-1 draw in December (that result certainly deceiving due to Johnson being forced into playing a make-shift 11, even bringing on the injured Jordan Willis and Lynden Gooch on as substitutes) we have had a 75% success rate against them since being relegated to League 1, scoring seven goals across four games, further adding to the narrative that we are strong favourites going into Saturday.

If we can focus on attacking through the midfield, which we were able to against Port Vale, we could easily exploit a weak defence and gain three points, as well as mark a turning point, along with focus on keeping Piggot quiet.