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Sunderland v Bradford City - EFL Trophy

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Talking Points: Team selection intrigue, Broadhead brilliance & more pressure for Lee Johnson

All the talking points from last night’s Pizza cup game.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The line up told us a lot about Lee Johnson’s current thinking

I have to admit, I was expecting a team made up purely of under-23s and younger – regardless of any fine that may come our way.

It was the most meaningless of meaningless games, and I had expected the first team players to be given some time off to clear their heads, refocus and come back refreshed ahead of our league game against Ipswich.

I was genuinely taken aback by the line up selected – Lee Johnson was evidently hoping the team would turn out a strong performance that would give us a confidence boost… It didn’t happen.

If we’d come into that game off the back of a run of wins, there’s no way that we select that team: it suggests – understandably – Johnson’s feeling the pressure.

Sunderland v Bradford City - EFL Trophy
I think most of us were expecting a much different line up
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The performance, however, showed only marginal improvement at best

Despite putting out a strong side, the performance overall was still rather lacklustre, and it’s a concern – certainly in the short term.

I’m still trying to get my head around what’s gone so wrong, so quickly. We just don’t seem to have the zip, the energy, the pressing that we had earlier in the season.

At times we looked to be playing at a slower speed to Bradford, and that’s worrying. Second half, we were a bit better – but that’s not saying a great deal!

Sunderland v Bradford City - EFL Trophy
The overall performance wasn’t what Lee Johnson would have been hoping for, but Embleton showed up well
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Nathan Broadhead stood out a mile – he could be pivotal over the coming weeks

One of the positives from last night was Nathan Broadhead.

The lad’s a class act – and him getting a good run out after playing at the weekend augurs well.

His goal was absolute class – brilliant run, clinical finish, and we need him in the starting line up whenever possible.

Where he plays will be something to watch – will he be paired with Ross Stewart or given a more withdrawn role? We’ll wait and see. But he’s got to be in the starting XI against Ipswich, it’s as simple as that.

Sunderland v Bradford City - EFL Trophy
Broadhead’s goal was the undoubted highlight
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How do we get the best out of Alex Pritchard?

Pritchard was a big signing in the summer, and for a variety of reasons we’ve struggled to get him on the field for any sustained periods.

But the lad has quality – loads of it – and we need to figure out how to involve him more prominently from the off.

He has the touch, guile and creativity to be instrumental for us, and the onus is on both him and the coaching staff to work out how he can contribute far more effectively than he has been able to so far.

Sunderland v Bradford City - EFL Trophy
Pritchard came close to winning the game
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How much pressure is Lee Johnson under now?

I think it’s fair to say he’s under a lot – and he’s feeling it.

Should he be sacked right now?

Not for me. The run we’re on is awful, no doubt about it, and he needs to turn it around pretty quickly, but for what my opinion is worth, I believe we need to ride this out and see where we get to.

I’ve commented before that managers seem to be ditched far quicker than they ever used to be, and rarely does that reap reward.

We need to turn the form around quickly – absolutely – however I do think that the vast majority of us would have been content if not happy with the points total and Carabao Cup progress to date if we’d been offered it at the start of the season.

It’s almost like he’s got the right results in the wrong order (Andre Previn, anyone?).

Yes the form’s crap, recent performances have been crap and yes it needs to pick up quickly… but longer term we could be (hopefully will be) better off for holding our nerve on this one – if that’s what KLD decides to do.

I hope we will be, anyway.

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