Gary Engel says...
From our January transfer business it was clear Lee Johnson, although somewhat still limited, with the takeover not completed at that stage, was determined to address our longstanding limitations.
We saw the acquisition of Winchester a midfielder with a bit of height. Then, Jones who gave us some pace. Those two sum up what we have worryingly lacked for years!
As a commentator once remarked after our Premier League relegation, that while we lacked physicality and pace, Sunderland couldn’t expect to attract those with our budget during Simon Grayson’s disastrous short tenure.
That just demonstrates how long we have been lacking in certain areas; not least, the next position of contention. Since we last won a promotion, English football has evolved with most sides putting midfield control over the out-and-out firepower of two strikers up front.
While Wyke has managed 30 goals to his name, we have lacked a genuine creative number 10. Many have been utilised in that creative, floating role but no one has proved the full package or nailed down the position.
Ideally, we need a big lad who is mobile, quick, can inject some genuine imagination into attack, and has an eye for goal. Someone with some real potential possibly in a similar style to Jack Grealish. Some might say McGeady pulls all our strings already. But he occupies the left side, where we really need someone to provide that missing link between midfield and attack. Someone central to dictate play and get the best from Wyke or whoever plays as our number 9 next season, whatever division we are in come the end of the month.
Tom Albrighton says...
It’s quite obvious where Sunderland really have to focus on strengthening next season - right back.
I can’t remember the last time Sunderland had a decent right back, and while Luke O’Nien may fill in there in a respectable manner, it’s clear to see he isn’t a natural right back. This was highlighted early on in the season when, with Denver Hume fit, a lot of opposition sides targeted our right-hand side to varying degrees of success.
Strengthening the right-back area is key, not only are good quality full-backs imperative to assembling a good side, having plenty of cover in such areas will save us from the chopping and changing as the season wears on.
One thing that highlights this more than anything was the end to this season, where we fielded a defence which, at times, was made up of 50% midfielders.
Defensively, attacking wise and for the benefit of the team in general, really nailing down two quality right-backs absolutely has to be of paramount importance.
Mark Wood says...
In our three seasons in League One, I have never seen a game where our midfield dominated the game and made the difference between the two sides over 90 minutes.
We have had various combinations and systems employed by three different managers, but never at any time in our three years could you look at any of our midfielders and felt that they were the best in League One.
Certainly, if you take our present incumbents in the midfield berths of Scowen, Power, Leadbitter and Winchester.
Lee Cattermole had a decent enough season in his one stint in League One, but was he the best midfielder in the league? Probably not. Worth 40k a week? Hell no. Then there are others such as McGeouch and Dobson. who never made much of an impression.
What I would like is for us to get away from the mindset of signing up players of ‘okay, he’ll do a job for us’, which I think has been behind a lot of the thinking for squad recruitment in League One.
Instead, I would like us to look for one or maybe two midfielders in a combination who will dominate game after game and be the best in whichever league we end up in.
Malc Dugdale says...
I actually agree with a lot of the comments from my RR comrades, but I would add that I don’t think any area of the pitch is a very strong one in terms of what Johnson wants from a team - he is doing what he can with Parky’s remains.
I think we need and will see wholesale changes front to back.
Up front we are too one-dimensional, so much so that when opponents work out how to quell the McGeady and Wyke partnership, we often struggle to score. We need variation up front, including the attacking midfielder area cited by many in this article, to score and create goals.
Our midfield has way under contributed this season so that requires much improvement.
We also need cover, and of a decent sort for Hume at left-back and also at right-back. We have at times got away with the McFadzean and Power show, but if we had better depth to cover these areas, those poor goals we conceded especially on the left while Hume was injured may have seen us in the auto spots.
Power needs to lead from the middle too. With the right players around him, I’m sure he can excel where we brought him in to play.
The final area we clearly need a combination of way better luck and a more solid performing squad is at centre-back. Who knows who will persist with us for the next season, and promotion will surely help our chances of keeping those who have shone. All that said, having a midfielder winning a place in the league team of the year is a freak of nature, attributable to the skills and application of Luke O’Nien, and we cannot (and will not) succeed with something like that again.
One of the goal-scoring options we could have had in midfield, as requested by others in their views, has been playing in defence for us most of this season.
If he can win a berth in team of the season in a role he just learned, what are we missing out on if he was in his ideal slot? Let’s sort our central defence and make sure we don’t have players hugely out of position for most of next season, please.
We need a lot of change, and with the new approaches and staff, I am very hopeful that will come and will bring changes much more effective than seen in the past too.