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Sunderland v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One

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The curious case of the missing Maguire

He loves a shot, loves a goal and loves a big occasion - could Chris Maguire could make the difference during the end of season promotion run-in for Sunderland?

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

There are a few similarities between Sunderland’s two previous games. They both finished in 2-1 defeats, Sunderland were absolutely utterly horrendous at defending, and more relevant for this piece, attacking. In addition, in both games and there was a curious absence of a 32-year-old rather handsome Glaswegian in the Sunderland squad that goes by the name of Chris Maguire.

Now, I am not suggesting the reason we lost the last two games was the lack of our mercurial Scottish attacker’s involvement. However if you asked me if I think he should have been involved in the last two games? The answer is a resounding yes.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

They say the longer a player is out of the team, the better he becomes. This seems to be the case with Chris Maguire. That being said, his sheer presence on the pitch would almost put him on par with some of the Sunderland players after witnessing some of the insipid displays contributed.

Since taking charge, Lee Johnson has won many plaudits for holding onto the courage of his conviction. Undeterred by anyone’s opinion, Johnson has chopped and changed his team and formation regularly and has often used the phrase, ‘horses for courses’.

Whilst this is admirable, it does not mean all the decisions he has made recently were the right ones. Far from it in fact. Amongst the many questions, one must be ask as to why Chris Maguire has found himself out of the matchday squads and seemingly surplus to requirements.

Somewhat of an enigma since his arrival to Sunderland in 2018, Maguire is capable of mixing the sublime with the substantially less sublime! He has the presence and power to take the game by the scruff of the neck in vital moments and push a team towards victory. However, he is equally capable of performing a disappearing act that would make Houdini proud.

That being said, the question must be raised, does the sublime outweigh the sub-standard?

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Kenilworth Road Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images

Upon reflecting over the past few performances, it can be suggested quite strongly that the answer to the above question is an affirmative yes. Sunderland’s attack has started to become a little one dimensional in recent times. A little stale, one might say.

Reliance on Aiden McGeady to use his unquestionable talent to dig us out of holes by scoring and creating the chances for Charlie Wyke has become a tedious and tiresome tactic.

Yes, Charlie Wyke has been outstanding this season, but the surprise factor of Wyke is gone. In addition, it appears teams are beginning to implement ways of stopping McGeady, even if it means just kicking the living daylights out of him, akin to what Wigan tried on Tuesday night.

Like a boxer after 12 rounds, Sunderland find themselves on the ropes and their attack is fading. Clearly, Lee Johnson is aware of this, as he has consistently tinkered with the front players.

Whilst showing glimpses of immense creativity and talent, Jordan Jones has been inconsistent in recent times, as has Aiden O’Brien. Ross Stewart is still adapting and appears to be a little raw. Similarly, Jack Diamond. While the less said about Lynden Gooch’s inconsistent performances of late, the better.

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

What is baffling, is while all these players have been offered numerous starting berth’s in recent games and largely shown to be unable to take their chances is why can’t Chris Maguire not even nail down a place on the bench?

Maguire is tried and tested at this level. He has shown what he is a capable of. A man who loves a shot. Loves a goal, and loves a big occasion. He is someone who seems to play his best when the stakes are high and has regularly come up with the goods in these big games.

There an abundance of examples that prove this in his time at Sunderland. You only have to look back to our play off semi finals, the late goal against Crewe this season and Ipswich at the Stadium of Light last year. That is just to name a few.

The stakes could not be higher for Lee Johnson and Sunderland. The Lads are in the midst of a automatic promotion challenge. One which is fading, and fading fast.

Suddenly, Lee Johnson appears to have problems all over the park. Whilst the defence has not covered themselves in glory recently, the Sunderland attack is not so convincing either.

Alterations and a fresh system are necessary. This is where the Scot comes in.

For a man who has not started regularly this season, Maguire’s stats of 4 goals and 5 assists is respectable. One which could certainly be extended with a run in the team.

Big moments call for big players. These are big moments, and he is a big player. Sunderland, as the cliché goes, have ‘6 cup finals’ ahead of them.

The stage is set for the return of the king. Will he get his chance?


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