Just how much did Sunderland miss Elliot Embleton?
It was a game where Lee Johnson admitted himself that Sunderland lacked a bit of zip. One player who would have made a difference on Saturday was Elliot Embleton.
His presence was missed, as his ability to hoover up the loose ball and bring us up the pitch is vital; instead, too often Charlton won the midfield battle, swamping O’Nien and Neil.
Meanwhile, Ross Stewart was fairly isolated all afternoon, particularly in the second half. Embo’s ability to link midfield and attack is perhaps one of his greatest strengths, and Sunderland missed it big time.
The one positive about his suspension is that he will be fresh - and in what is now an even bigger match next weekend against Rotherham, he will be needed - there’s no doubt about that.
Time to drop O’Nien?
Luke’s performances have been under scrutiny of late. It’s nothing major to worry about, however, he looks a bit lost in the middle of the park at the moment.
Yes, he still gets stuck in - you will always get that from him - but too often on Saturday he came off second best.
Question is, would it be right to take him out the side for a short period of time, perhaps to recharge his batteries, or give Sunderland’s happiest squad member the chance to play himself back into form?
All of it depends on Evans’ fitness, as well as how Johnson chooses to manage Dan Neil’s game time, considering he is only 19. But would some time out the team be such a bad thing?
Also, since when did he take free kicks?
Sunderland show a curious lack of shape - especially when 1-0 down
It was a strange match, in truth. It always felt like there would be one goal in it, and for large periods it looked like it would come for the home team. It wasn’t a terrible performance, but it would only have been good enough to beat the very weakest teams in the division.
Yes, Charlton had a lot of territory in the first half but didn’t convert that into clear chances. In the second, Sunderland had two warning shots before the goal but didn’t heed them. Part of this was down to the lack of shape across the pitch today, and it’s difficult to know why that is. It was far too narrow, and it turned into midfield soup - which is exactly what Charlton would have wanted, allowing Jonathan Leko the space to stretch things out wide.
Certainly, there should be questions as to whether Pritchard and McGeady - who had perhaps his poorest game in a Sunderland shirt - can play in the same side together in matches like this. They both like to roam, but there was a little bit too much chasing the ball - this meant that despite having all the chances in the first half, we never really had control of the game at any point, apart from perhaps - ironically - just before Charlton’s goal.
After Stockley’s winner, the response was just not good enough. Resorting to aimless long balls, making bad decisions in the final third (McGeady, I’m sorry, it’s you again) meant that the Black Cats never really looked like getting the equaliser. Yes, Charlton employed every time-wasting trick in the book, but wouldn’t you?
That’s not the norm for Lee Johnson’s side and, in future, Sunderland have to be better.
Should Lee Johnson have changed things earlier?
Speaking of which, if something doesn’t feel right, it can be altered at any point during the game.
There is no rule that managers must wait until the 70th minute to change things around. Sometimes it helps to be proactive in substitutions, and this was a game where it was quite clear that something was a little amiss.
Maybe Johnson wanted to wait; as previously stated, Sunderland were building up a head of steam in the lead up to Charlton’s goal, and maybe that swayed him. However, on the other hand, it was clear that there was something not right with the way in which the midfield was operating.
With Charlton visibly tiring, the introduction of Gooch and/or Dajaku on the hour mark for McGeady and O’Brien would not only have helped to stretch the game more but also, perhaps, given the side more control.
In reality, Charlton got the goal and that gave them the boost they needed to see the game out.