I love the busy fixture list over Christmas but it’s come at a dreadful time for us this year because we’ve got so many injuries. Lee Johnson won’t be able to freshen things up as much as he’d perhaps want to and that might mean we don’t get as many points as we’d like.
That said, there is nothing wrong with setting ourselves a high target and if we want to be serious contenders for automatic promotion we need to be getting 12 points plus I’d say.
We’ve just picked up seven points in the space of a week so hopefully confidence is high, and having four home fixtures could work in our favour as our record at the Stadium of Light has been very strong and it means less time spent travelling.
After the Arsenal game we actually have a decent break so maybe the players and staff will get to spend Christmas Day with loved ones and that will be a boost for them, meaning that those still available come back feeling good to go and we can finish the year off by really getting into the chase for the top two spots.
Malc Dugdale says...
Let’s be honest, if we can keep the 2 points per game ratio going across the coming period given some of the teams we are playing and how many injuries we have, that will be no mean feat. This is still a marathon, and we haven’t yet got to the 13-mile marker.
Let’s begin by ruling out the obvious one - whatever we do achieve against Arsenal we will have done incredibly well to get this far, but just like Oldham game the other night, a win is a bonus but not a necessity. We aren’t going to win it so if we go out with a good fight and with no injuries, I’ll be all good.
Across the others, I expect us to get wins against Morecambe, Plymouth and Donnie, so if we get 3 points across the other 3 league opponents, the 2 ppg target will be met.
I think we should do way better at home against Wednesday than we did at their place, and if we can carry on where we left off in Cambridge we should be able to grab all three at home to their boat race mates from Oxford.
12 points across the six games will be great, but if we can nick a 4th and maybe even a 5th win against one of the other rivals, we really will be in the mix come 2022.
If we go how the lads normally do, we will lose to the lower down sides and beat the upper half rivals, but 12 points plus and I’ll be a happy lad come January 1st.
Martin Wanless says...
All throughout this season I’ve been of the view that we need to look at the campaign as a whole, rather than becoming overly concerned about individual results, as this gives us a clearer picture of whether we’re on target to achieve our aim of promotion. While a stuffing at Rotherham, for example, can be a punch in the guts, and a complete embarrassment if truth be told, it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize and not knee jerk either way based on the outcome of every individual game.
We know historically that averaging two points per game will usually be enough to get us promoted, and currently we’re one point behind that total. We’ve got six league games coming up in December, so in reality we need to get a minimum of 13 points to enter the new year maintaining that two points per game.
Of course, we want to win every game, but four wins, a draw and one defeat will see us enter the new year in pretty good shape, and I’d happily take that right now.
I feel that would be a strong position for us to be in come January, which will see players return from injury and presumably some new signings, too.
A win on Saturday would get December off to a cracking start, and continue what has been a pretty good two weeks in the league, from a points perspective at least.
The Arsenal game in the cup is obviously thrown into the middle of our league run, and the only things I want out of that game is to avoid a stuffing, and avoid any injuries. Anything after that is a complete bonus.
Paul Fletcher says...
Looking at the League One table as it stands, you could make the case that any of the top nine teams are in with a chance of claiming automatic promotion. There are only six points separating these nine clubs and Portsmouth, the team currently in ninth, are in the best form. Sitting in fifth position, it could be argued that Sunderland are right in the middle of the race for those top two spots. Quite simply, we need to maintain or better this position by the end of the month.
A disastrous December would be to somehow lose all six games, drop out of the aforementioned ‘top nine’ and be left completely out of the picture, 15 or more points adrift from the top two. On the other hand, a dream December would be to win all six of our league games comfortably, boost our goal difference and go into 2022 sitting in pole position.
In my opinion, an acceptable December would be somewhere in the middle. In terms of league results, nine points is the absolute bare minimum from the six fixtures. If we can achieve this total or slightly better then automatic promotion will still be achievable. As for the Arsenal game, I’d like to see us give a good account of ourselves, enjoy the occasion and play like a team under no pressure at all. As long as it’s a good day out for the supporters and the lads put in a performance to be proud of, I’m not too concerned about the final score.
Finally, what is equally as important to make this an ‘acceptable December’ is for nothing to go badly wrong. That means no new injuries or recurrences of old injuries – a couple of niggles I can tolerate but nothing long-term please. That means no covid outbreaks within the club, or other clubs in the league – disruption to the schedule aside, it’s just something we don’t want anyone to suffer. This means no games postponed due to adverse weather – we really don’t want another end of season fixture pile up. This means no players being unsettled by January transfer speculation – we need everyone focused 100% on the job in hand. And most importantly for me, this means no sacking of the manager (or clamouring for the manager to be sacked). December is not the time to panic.