Kelvin Beattie says...
1. Ignore the clamour on social media.
2. Return Luke O’Nien to right back, and Put Carl Winchester into the midfield mixer.
3. Play Ross Stewart and Nathan Broadhead up front.
4. Work on the planned ‘throttling’ of a game we are winning as well as a more defensive, harder to beat lineup against the teams identified as requiring this. This requires the utilisation of the squad, and specific roles for Evans and Winchester... and Gooch if he’s back firing on all cylinders.
5. Return to an intermittent hard press as standard.
6. Identify a planned intervention for Gooch. He looks lost and right off his game, but on his game he certainly has something to offer - get him sorted!
7. Ensure Captain McGeady is fit and ready to fulfil his leadership role, as well as his creative role. The Cirkin-McGeady link-up was beginning to show some signs of effectiveness prior to our recent slide!
8. Embleton and Neil need to feel the full support of the management team and us, the fans. Both for me are key to our progress. Get them in the team, in their best positions and let them do their stuff with our full support.
9. Pritchard has shown brief glimpses without knocking us out with his match-turning potential. He, in many respects, was the marquee signing. I feel he needs a bespoke plan to either get him going, or take him right out the firing line. He is, for me, quite similar to Embleton, and I wonder if they are dumbing each other down to a degree.
10. We certainly have options in the centre of defence, and have seen the best and the worst of this position over the season so far. I would like to see LJ test Alves in the league. Flanno and Doyle getting back to form, though, would be my wish.
There you go a ten point hit list - the job will be a good’un if these are achieved!
Michael Dunne says...
Sunderland’s seasons are beginning to follow a similar pattern - a solid start, followed by a baffling early winter slump in form. This one is more baffling than most, purely because the standard of performances have been higher than they ever have been in League One.
Knee-jerk reactions are not helpful to anyone. Social media is full of emotional fans right now who are looking for the manager's head - I certainly am not one of them. That being said, Lee Johnson needs to change something, and it needs to be quick.
The glaringly obvious issues currently are our lack of physicality and a domineering midfielder who will anchor the game for us. The physicality needs addressing. We have been bullied, battered and bruised by teams who are much bigger and stronger than us.
I wholeheartedly agree with the club strategy of promoting youth, but like any team in any sport, a bit of nous and experience would not go astray right now. It would be my opinion that returning someone like Bailey Wright into the heart of defence could potentially make a difference. Wright’s form has been patchy but I don’t think it would be any harm to replace Tom Flanagan or Callum Doyle currently, and take them out of the firing line.
The issue in midfield is more pressing and becoming a genuine concern. Luke O’Nien has a lot of fans, but sometimes I think fans are blinded by how a great guy he is, and things not relating to his footballing ability.
The fact of the matter - and I feel strongly on this - is that Luke O Nien has yet to prove himself as a high calibre central midfielder in this league.
This is fourth season at the club. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a player that was bought to be a midfielder was shifted to right-back for the majority of his time here.
He’s a good right back, but for me, he just doesn’t cut it in midfield.
Sunderland need someone here who can string passes together, create play and bring composure to the people around them. If I were Lee Johnson, I would be tempted to swap O’Nien and Carl Winchester.
Winchester has performed admirably in the right-back position, but recent games have shown that he isn’t a natural in the position. Winchester has the aforementioned ability on the ball - so, swapping these two players could be something to be considered by management.
These two are by no means the only issues at the club right now. We are creating far fewer opportunities than we had been, and there’s a predictability to our attacking play.
Players like Gooch, Dajaku and McGeady have yet to really truly spark this season.
Is the current formation really working? Possibly not.
Johnson needs to find a way to get the best out of Ross Stewart, as he is one of the best strikers in the league. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alex Pritchard get a more prominent role.
The Ipswich game is massive for Johnson. Win, and the pressure is somewhat relieved - lose, and the scrutiny and negativity will only increase.
Mark Carrick says...
There needs to be a lot of work done in the next fortnight on coaching, rebuilding confidence, working on patterns of play, and getting key players fit.
These are good players, as they showed earlier in the season. LJ needs to find the right tactics and setup to get them firing again.
There may be tweaks - I’d personally take Flanagan out of the side as he dropped back to previous season form. I’d be tempted to try Broadhead closer to Stewart, maybe even switch O’Nien and Winchester to give Evans a solid partner at the base of midfield - but whatever he tries, now is the time to tinker on the training ground.
I think, as quickly as we lost form, this young side can regain it and go on another run. Time that to coincide with the Christmas program, and we could be sitting a lot prettier come January.
In tandem with this period, the recruitment team MUST find strong, physical players to come into the central defence and holding midfield roles. We have always bemoaned the lack of physicality, and in the upcoming window it needs to be addressed.
The gafefer surely must see that we are being bullied and outfought at the moment.
So, whilst tweaks can be made in the next six weeks, the season’s goals may turn on who comes in in January.