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Sunderland have started conceding more goals recently - coincidence, or are we more vulnerable?

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Sunderland conceded more than one goal in 3 out of the first 20 League games - and conceded more than one in 3 out of the last 5... Is this just a coincidence, or do we look more vulnerable at the back lately?

Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gav says...

I guess it’s a symptom of the mentality that Johnson is trying to instil upon his players - logically, if you are intending to increase your attacking input, you will concede goals more often than not.

Mind, the constant change in the back four won’t help. Willis is a sure starter when fit, but he seems to be having issues with his fitness and that’s causing us problems. On Saturday he wasn’t supposed to start, but Tom Flanagan pulling up in the warm-up meant that he had to. By the end of the game, Danny Collins was commenting that Willis appeared to be hobbling - we really just need to get him fit, and in the team consistently with right.

Vokins is going to need to bed in too, so until everything clicks, and we get our best defence playing together over a sustained period, we might see holes in our defensive game plan.

I also don’t think our goalkeeper helps, and he’s conceded some shockers recently. Obviously, if he was a consistent performer he wouldn’t be playing in League One, so I guess we just have to accept that he’ll make mistakes on occasion.

Ultimately, if we keep attacking like we are, we’ll outscore teams more often than not. It feels like Johnson’s now got his best squad available to him, and having been backed in the transfer market, perhaps now is the point where we start to judge him properly.

Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

This isn’t a coincidence for me, though it may well be a symptom of the change that is trying to be implemented, but is still needing a lot of work.

When Johnson came in, all Lads fans knew this meant we were likely to move away from the reliance on a solid back line and grabbing the odd goal for a Parkyesque 1-0. Johnson came in with a reputation of attacking football, where we win by creating and scoring more than them, embracing a style and culture including youth development and opportunities previously not afforded to talent in the academy.

The defending against MK Dons in the last league game was shocking, and clearly we need to hugely improve that, but despite being very annoyed that we dropped two points, it cannot be argued that we didn’t create enough chances to win the game.

If our attackers had been as on point as they have been in recent weeks, those chances could have given one of our lads another match ball. The penalty appeal off O’Brien, the handful of chances not taken by McGeady... any of those go in, and we win.

If we are going to welcome the attacking aspects of our new strategy, we need to recognise and accept that defensive challenges will come with that.

The defending was poor, but we know they can do that better, and they have to if we stand any chance of going up. At the other end though, with the number of chances we are creating hugely improving, having a bad day at the office in defence now and again is something we may have to get used to.

Sunderland v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Will Jones says...

No, to be frank. It’s not a coincidence at all. We are playing a more attacking style and are pressing from the front, which creates more space all over the park.

Further to this, when changing managers and tactics, we have taken out a centre back and added a striker. The middle is a lot less compact, and that has exposed Leadbitter’s lack of speed, and gives us one less option in that central defence/midfield role.

That hole between defence and midfield is being exploited week in, week out, and as a result we are being ‘exposed’ in the centre of the park.

The players are still adapting to the four at the back, having played with the reliance of a fifth for over a year, and will feel exposed themselves. However, bringing someone else in to Aiden O’Brien’s position, moving them back just in front of the two central midfielders, may give us a cushion instead of there being just two players, one of whom is slow and unable to react as quick as the opposition to first and second balls.