Sunderland beat 1-0 Ipswich on Tuesday night, as Charlie Wyke continued his excellent goal-scoring form by netting his seventh goal in seven League One games. The 28-year-old converted using his weak foot from a sublime Max Power cross, as he the ex-Bradford striker continues to prove his critics wrong.
The match was flipped on its head early when Ipswich striker Kayden Jackson was shown a straight red card for a shocking challenge on Bailey Wright. From that point, Sunderland controlled the match and managed to achieve a league double over Ipswich, as the pressure continues to mount on their manager Paul Lambert.
What has prompted Charlie Wyke’s fantastic form?
The question every Sunderland fan is asking right now is where has Charlie Wyke’s goal-scoring form came from?
Having scored just 11 in his first 60 appearances on Wearside, the 28-year-old has scored 15 in 27 matches this season. He is just one goal behind League One top scorers Jonson Clarke-Harris and Luke Jephcott, and close to beating Josh Maja’s total of 16 under Jack Ross.
Wyke deserves enormous credit, as he has been constantly written off by many Sunderland fans (including myself) as someone who is not good enough to fire the club to promotion. Despite the constant criticism, he appears to be thriving under Lee Johnson and has scored seven goals in seven league games since the ex-Bristol City bosses appointment.
I think the main factors in his upturn in form are fitness, confidence and a change in style of play under Johnson.
Lee Cattermole highlighted on Sky during the Ipswich match that when Wyke originally signed he joined injured and also picked up another injury during the season. He never had a consistent run starting games and his season was massively stop-start.
Last season Wyke was Parkinson’s main striker, but he was massively isolated and used more as a target man, he rarely took shots and the goals often came from Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch.
Lately under Johnson, the team have focused on delivering the ball to Wyke in promising positions inside the box, utilizing Wyke in the poacher role he thrives within. Most of the ex-Bradford striker’s goals have been smart finishes from close range and he is starting to receive more quality deliveries as Johnson is selecting more creative players.
As a result, Wyke has grew in confidence and is now producing excellent finishes like we seen against Ipswich on his weak foot. He looks the fittest he has been and the most confident.
The challenge for Wyke is now maintaining these performance levels, if he does he has a chance of becoming the league’s top scorer, as well as a chance to fire Sunderland into the Championship.
4-3-3 or 4-2-2-2 - which system should Johnson use more?
First and foremost I would like to state that it is excellent to see a manager who has various shapes, unlike our previous manager, but which one is more effective?
Originally Lee Johnson adopted a 4-3-3, bringing Aiden McGeady back from the dark and playing Jack Diamond in his actual position. Sunderland had more width, but still the midfield three lacked creativity and Charlie Wyke was isolated.
The change to a 4-2-2-2 style then saw the likes of Aiden O’Brien put in his best Sunderland performances and has also seen the best of Elliott Embleton. Johnson has shown the bravery to trial Lynden Gooch and Luke O’Nien upfront, but most noticeably Max Power has regularly started at right-back.
The main pro of the treble two is that Charlie Wyke has more players close to him and Sunderland have more bodies in the box. Against Ipswich, after the half-time switch Sunderland enjoyed far more offensive moments and, despite not scoring, it was by far a more enjoyable and productive half.
In contrast, when Sunderland play three in central midfield we are far less likely to be over run and we possess excellent defensive midfielders at this level. However, when a trio of Leadbitter/Scowen/Power are together, is there enough creativity? It is early in to Carl Winchester’s Sunderland tenure, but Johnson appears to believe he is the creative spark the club were lacking centrally.
As I stated, it is great to see Johnson showing flexibility and it promising that the team have various plans/setups depending on each game scenario, but which one should he start with to ensure Sunderland win more games?
Should Sunderland loan Will Grigg to Shrewsbury?
Yesterday the Football Insider reported that Shrewsbury have agreed a deal to sign Will Grigg from Sunderland before the January transfer deadline.
The former Northern Ireland international has failed to score this season in all competitions and largely overlooked for the in-form Charlie Wyke.
The 29-year-old has failed to meet the expectations that came with his £3million price tag, scoring just eight goals in 54 appearances.
The debate that often takes place is whether Grigg has just underperformed, or if he has been starved of service throughout his tenure on Wearside.
However, the fact both Josh Maja, before he joined, and Charlie Wyke have successfully reached double figures in the same team suggests it is a personal performance issue.
The main positive of loaning Grigg out is that it frees up vital wage space, as well as a squad place, that Sunderland can use to add a fresh face to compete with Wyke and Aiden O’Brien.
Also, if he finds his confidence and starts scoring consistently for Steve Cotterill’s side, Sunderland would be able to demand a higher fee in the summer, or place him back into Lee Johnson’s side for next season.
The main negative of him leaving is that it essentially confirms the transfer as failed, it could mean Johnson deems Grigg surplus to requirements and once again Sunderland would have wasted an enormous amount of money on a failed signing.
Overall, I think it is fair to conclude Will Grigg and Sunderland just are not meant to be, he has now failed to impress under three different managers - Sunderland need fresh blood and he needs a fresh start.