The feel-good factor was back at the Stadium of Light - are Sunderland now back on track in our promotion hunt?
How good does it feel when you’re watching Sunderland play at the Stadium of Light and the atmosphere is electric?
On Saturday it felt as though the feel-good factor was back, the football on the pitch at times was brilliant and you could feel like the players were being more daring and risk-taking in their play.
The discontent surrounding the results and the manager was gone, you could clearly feel the lifting of anxiety with both the players and the fans. The result may have ended closer than it deserved to be, but it really felt like Sunderland were back on track with our goal of trying to achieve promotion.
Lee Johnson came under valid criticism for the team’s collapses against Portsmouth, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday, but it seems as though the squad have got through the storm and are now starting to play some of the excellent football we seen at the start of the season.
Now unbeaten in six and right back in the mix, Sunderland can attack our upcoming fixtures with a chance to break back into the top two.
With our rivals all in form excluding Plymouth, it was crucial that Sunderland recovered from our blip. The team now needs to ensure that this positivity remains, as you can clearly see the impact of a roaring atmosphere at the SoL on the team’s performance.
Do you think that Sunderland’s promotion aspirations are back on track?
Nathan Broadhead has been excellent lately - how crucial is it that he stays in January?
With four goals in his last four League One matches, Nathan Broadhead has really stepped up to ease the pressure on Ross Stewart with scoring goals.
After a slow start through injury issues, now that the Everton loanee is fully fit he is really starting to shine as both a goal threat and someone who can create.
He and Stewart seem to have created a great partnership and you always feel excited when he is on the ball. His ability to beat players and shift onto either foot in tight spaces is a joy to watch.
The worry with loan players is always that the parent club holds all of the cards. Other than Fred Alves who is likely to depart, all of Sunderland’s loan players are playing regular football, so it would make little sense to bring them back.
Having said that, the only worry with Broadhead is that should other clubs become interested, Everton may see an opportunity to generate funds given their financial situation.
Given his recent impact, I think it is crucial that the Welshman remains on Wearside and you would think regular football at a desirable League One club should be enough to convince him to stay.
Do you think Sunderland should try to sign him permanently if Everton were to recall him?
Carl Winchester once again displayed his positional flexibility - is he Sunderland’s unsung hero?
From playmaker, flying full-back to a ball-winning midfielder, it seems that Carl Winchester can do it all in a Sunderland shirt!
After stepping in at right-back in pre-season, Winchester quickly established himself as a steady option for Lee Johnson against all expectations.
Now in both Corry Evans and Luke O’Nien’s absence, he has stepped up again as a ball-winning midfielder who provides the bite alongside the more creative Dan Neil.
The Northern Ireland international deserves mass credit for his flexibility this season and his selfless attitude to put the team before himself. Ideally, Winchester would have liked to play as a creative deep midfielder, but he has been fantastic for Johnson in filling gaps excellently to cover injuries.
I think whilst the 28-year-old will rarely attract all of the headlines, he has been crucial for Sunderland and his attitude is excellent. You can see that he loves every minute of playing in a Sunderland shirt and he has proved everyone wrong who doubted him when he was signed from Forest Green just under a year ago.
Where do you think Winchester’s best position is?
Sunderland conceded a soft goal from a set-piece - could Thorbann Hoffmann have done better?
The frustrating part of Sunderland’s performance on Saturday was that we continued the trend of conceding soft and highly avoidable goals.
The team have struggled massively to keep clean sheets and Thorbann Hoffmann rightfully accepted responsibility for being unable to control his six-yard box.
Opposition sides have identified that the German has a tendency to flap from corners and it is a part of his game that I believe needs to be worked on more during training.
Sunderland have not been good enough in defending set-pieces and aerial balls in general this season, so you can argue Hoffmann needs more support, but I think he still needs to be more dominant in his own area.
Do you think Hoffmann was at fault, or should he have been protected better?
Jack Diamond scored again for Harrogate - should Lee Johnson recall him in January?
Jack Diamond was rightfully loaned out at the beginning of the season to give him more first-team exposure, but given Aiden McGeady’s fitness issues and Aiden O’Brien’s poor form, is it now time to bring him back?
Looking at Sunderland’s bench on Saturday, you always felt that Elliot Embleton could have an impact, but there was no one else who really you thought could change the game.
With Diamond, you get someone with excellent pace who can take on defenders and make things happen. I would say Sunderland fans were in agreement that his end product had to improve, but with 6 goals and 6 assists already this season, he is bang in form.
Given that our squad is depleted through injuries and increased competition for places/depth is required, would you recall the 21-year-old next month?
The transfer window opens next month - where do Sunderland need to strengthen?
Continuing the above-mentioned discussion on January, Sunderland’s bench on Saturday also displayed that we need new reinforcements in addition to recalling Diamond.
Given that League One is so tight, I think it is integral that Sunderland bring in players to improve the starting eleven.
The fact we ended up with Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton in a midfield two clearly displays that a central midfielder has to be a top priority.
Luke O’Nien is likely to miss most of this season and Corry Evans has given those on Wearside no faith that he is capable of starting a run of games.
As well as a central midfielder, the over-reliance on Carl Winchester and the long-term injury to Niall Huggins means that the club also need a right-back, a position we never properly recruited during the summer. A specialist with pace who fits our play style and would be comfortable in a 4 or 5 would be a quality addition.
Also, I think that given O’Brien is likely to depart, it would be excellent to recruit competition for Ross Stewart. We do not have a like-for-like if he was to suffer an injury and you cannot risk not having an outlet who can score goals.
A loan signing can be included as one of the above, as a slot will become available if Alves is recalled. Arby Xhemajli and Ollie Younger are capable of covering our current three starters.
What positions would you like to see Sunderland recruit in January?