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Sunderland are going to Wembley and have a new owner - it’s not been a bad week!

It hasn’t been a bad week, has it?

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sunderland fans have not had much to smile about during the past year.

We have witnessed our club narrowly miss out on promotion through points-per-game, endured another summer of failed recruitment, another manager who proved to be the wrong choice, as well as the embarrassment of once again underperforming at this level.

Add that to the what seemed like never-ending ownership troubles, embarrassing cup exists and being unable to attend the Stadium of Light to see our team... it has been a highly depressing chain of events.

But now there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, we have a new manager working under a new director of football, a striker in the form of his life, a cup final to look forward to, and most importantly a brand new owner who hopefully will symbolise a new era on Wearside.

It may not be the FA or the League Cup that many of the fanbase are used to competing for, but this is the level we are at and there is absolutely no reason why we should not enjoy the final.

Winning the EFL Trophy would help Lee Johnson create a winning mentality at Sunderland, it would give everyone involved at the club a lift, and most importantly provide joy for our loyal fans.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus has a fantastic opportunity to deliver real change to Sunderland. The club possess Premier League standard stadia, facilities and average 30,000 fans (when allowed) every week in the third tier of English football.

He has the power to unleash our potential if he takes the correct steps moving forward.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy
Luke O’Nien has scored five out of five penalties during shoot-outs since he joined Sunderland in 2018.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Does Lee Johnson deserve credit for making the substitutes that changed the game?

When Sunderland went 1-0 down on Wednesday I had little optimism that we would get back into the match. We were struggling to create chances and had barely tested Alex Palmer in the Lincoln net.

However, the turning point in the match was a brave double substitution from Lee Johnson, who brought on attacking duo Chris Maguire and Jack Diamond for Dan Neil and Josh Scowen.

It was a bold move, as it left Sunderland with very little protection in front of the defence, but Maguire added instant creativity and movement, while Diamond added some pace and directness that caused Lincoln problems.

It was brilliant to see a manager who was not scared to have a go and who understood drastic changes were required, the all out attack approach paid off and Sunderland started to continuously test the goal and finally place shots on target.

Even when Charlie Wyke had equalised, Johnson then brought on striker Aiden O’Brien for Lynden Gooch – he had no interest in settling for penalties.

Sunderland’s main target this season is promotion to the Championship, but I have massive respect for the manager who has taken the EFL Trophy seriously and set out to win each game, even if he has bigger fish to fry.

The fans now have a cup final to look forward to and Sunderland have the chance to win some silverware – all because Johnson showed some guts to make bold changes and go for it.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy
Chris Maguire has only started one match in League One since Lee Johnson’s appointment as manager in December.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Should Sunderland fans be concerned by the defensive injury crisis?

A major concern for Lee Johnson will be the increasing number of defensive injuries we currently have.

When Bailey Wright was withdrawn on Wednesday, Sunderland were left with two midfielders playing in the defensive four, and Conor McLaughlin operating in an unfamiliar role in a two-man central defence.

At present, Sunderland have Jordan Willis and Arbenit Xhemajli set to miss the rest of the season, while Wright, Tom Flanagan and Oliver Younger are nursing injuries, meaning Johnson is missing five central defenders.

Johnson had said Wright is 50/50 for Saturday, so if he and Flanagan miss out it is likely that Dion Sanderson will be partnered with either Luke O’Nien or McLaughlin.

With Max Power already playing a new role at right-back, combined with Calum McFadzean struggling to defend in a four, Sunderland’s defence is a complete mixup of players not in their best roles.

The worrying part is the lack of depth Sunderland have centrally, especially given the club are playing two games per week.

17-year-old academy player Patrick Almond was on the bench against Lincoln, which shows just how many defensive players we are missing.

If Sunderland were to suffer another injury to a central player against Burton, Lee Johnson could end up having to make some brave decisions with our under-23 defenders.

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