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Talking Points: 10 draws is too many for promotion-chasing Sunderland

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The implications of Johnson’s Sunderland not putting games to bed, and the ins and outs of the transfer window, provide plenty of food for thought for fans this weekend. Let us know what you think!

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

Sunderland drew 2-2 with Gillingham at the Stadium of Light, a result moved the Black Cats up to sixth on the League One table.

Lee Johnson’s side took an early lead through Aiden McGeady, but were pegged back 20 minutes later through an Alex MacDonald strike. Sunderland retook the lead just before half-time when Grant Leadbitter converted from close range, following a fantastic penalty save from Jack Bonham.

However, Johnson’s side suffered from Déjà Vu from the season before as Gillingham once again scored a late goal to plant a nail in Sunderland’s promotion hopes, with Jordan Graham converting from close range.

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

How does Lee Johnson stop Sunderland from drawing so many games?

Jordan Graham’s 90th-minute equaliser was an incredibly bitter pill to swallow for everyone involved with Sunderland.

Lee Johnson’s side have now drawn ten League One matches this season and have lost a highly damaging eleven points from winning positions.

It is an issue that has continued for three seasons now, originally beginning under Jack Ross when Sunderland drew 19 matches during the 2018/19 season.

The draws stem back to one key point, Sunderland do not kill off teams and finish games, the team rarely score more than two goals and the opposition are always within touching distance of achieving points.

This season, for example, the Black Cats have just scored 32 league goals - the lowest in the top six. Sunderland are just not clinical or ruthless enough.

If Johnson wants to mount a serious promotion push, Sunderland simply cannot keep giving teams a chance in games, they need to clinch that two-goal cushion which gives them breathing space.

Sunderland must improve their game management, but also their mentality, the side needs to become more relentless and go out to kill teams in every match.

Teams do not achieve promotion settling for draws or spending prolonged periods defending one-goal leads, they achieve it by provoking fear in their opponents and possessing the desire to beat everyone, no matter who they are.

This is a problem Johnson inherited as Phil Parkinson was always a very safety first approach style of manager, but it is something he needs to address if he is to succeed at Sunderland.

Sunderland v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One
Only two teams in the top half of League One have scored less than Sunderland this season.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How do Sunderland’s new signings fit into the team?

Yesterday, Sunderland announced two new signings in Josh Vokins from Southampton and Jordan Jones from Rangers, both on loan deals until the season concludes.

In addition to this, the Sunderland Echo reported that Sunderland have agreed a £300K fee with Scottish Premier League side Ross County for striker Ross Stewart.

The report states that the 24-year-old is now traveling to undergo a medical ahead of signing a two and a half year deal, and that the Black Cats have beat Rotherham, MK Dons and Aberdeen to signing him.

Should that move be completed, Sunderland would have signed four players in Carl Winchester, Vokins, Jones and Stewart, but where will the latter three fit into the side?

The change that is most likely to be made is Josh Vokins to come in and start at left-back whilst Denver Hume is out injured.

After a steady start, Callum McFadzean has been criminally exposed defensively since Sunderland moved to a four back and he that was evident against Gillingham’s in-form winger Jordan Graham.

Jones will inject much-needed pace into the Sunderland team, but who does he come in for?

His competition is likely to be Aiden McGeady, Lynden Gooch, Jack Diamond and Elliot Embleton, who can all play on either side, but you would imagine with an intense fixture list Johnson will have to heavily rotate.

Lastly, you would guess Stewart has been brought in to partner Charlie Wyke and compete with Aiden O’Brien and Danny Graham, who have both failed to score consistently this season.

The Scot has only scored two league goals this season, but you have to factor in that Ross County are second bottom of the SPL and have scored the least goals, yet Stewart has still been linked with a Championship side.

The judgement Johnson has to make is does he throw Sunderland’s new signings straight into the starting eleven or does he bring them off the bench and make them work for their places?

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Jordan Jones
Jordan Jones has already played for North East based teams, having played for both Middlesbrough and Hartlepool.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Who could depart from Wearside before the transfer deadline?

The January transfer window closes on Monday February 1st at 11pm, so who are the players who could depart Wearside before the clock strikes?

The most likely departure is striker Will Grigg, who is set to leave on loan once Sunderland’s deal for Stewart is concluded. The former Northern Ireland international has been linked with an array of League One clubs, with Shrewsbury reportedly the most likely to secure his signature.

Sunderland supporters won’t be sad to see Grigg leave, as his big-money move just has not worked and he has failed to repeat his Wigan form by scoring goals consistently.

A move for Danny Graham seems unlikely, as Sunderland appear reluctant to pay off his contract and Lee Johnson confirmed he is set to stay despite falling out of favour.

Also, despite many links, it seems academy graduates Dan Neil and Anthony Patterson are both set to stay on Wearside and not get their opportunities to obtain regular first-team football.

The big surprise of the transfer window could be that Chris Maguire leaves Sunderland late on, the 32-year-old has just started one League One match under Lee Johnson and was left out of the matchday squad against Gillingham.

The winger is out of contract at the end of the season and despite being an integral first-team player last season, he may end up leaving if he wants to be a starting player,

It would be a bold decision to allow the club’s top scorer from last season to leave midway through the season, but with Jordan Jones signing combined with the emergence of Jack Diamond and Elliot Embleton - do Sunderland need Chris Maguire?

Swindon Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Chris Maguire has scored just three League One goals this season, which has all come from the penalty spot.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images