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Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One

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The Power & Wyke no-show justifies Sunderland’s decision to replace their League One ‘plodders’

Has Lee Johnson got his transfer business right so far this summer? Not just in terms of those coming through the door, but those he let leave too...

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How many times has it been the case that three players made their debuts against their former club in the manner that Wyke, Power and Jones did on Saturday? Not many, I’ll bet.

Therefore, what an insight it was - being able to analyse your former “key” players without having any vested in them doing well; the opposite, in fact.

What we wanted over the last year so much, was for Power to be the glue and for Wyke to make things stick.

It transpires that Power and Wyke put in the powder puff performances we have come to expect from them: Power was treacle in the centre of the park, and Wyke made nothing stick.

Without McGeady, Charlie was like a car without the keys - he just couldn’t get going.

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

Personally, I am delighted that they are someone else’s player now. Granted, you get someone to put the ball on Wyke’s head with accuracy then you’ll have a problem; but his performances last season were the exception, rather than the norm across three seasons which, taken together, were utterly uninspiring.

The most damning indictment is that players who once shared a dressing room with Wyke and Power now look far more effective because of their absence: what they have been allowed to become only serves to highlight that the setup yesterday should have been the way forward last season - Embleton, O’Nien and Stewart operating in roles which we largely have not seen from them in their Sunderland careers.

However, it also acts as a warning signal to the recruitment at the club - this is a team that is hopefully far from finished in the transfer market, and they must not go down the path of signing the likes of Wyke and Power again. The archetypal League One plodders who do not have the ability to drag your club kicking and screaming into the division above.

Power’s decision to resort to the dark arts led to nothing but ridicule from the stands and a booking from Robert Madley - he was neither cute, intelligent or good enough to wind up the Sunderland midfield, who it has to be said, ran the show from the quarter-hour mark onward.

The team overall were energetic, vibrant and had an understanding you wouldn’t necessarily expect at this stage of the season; even now, little partnerships were evident across the pitch.

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

This was particularly highlighted by Evans and O’Nien in the middle. Evans played the quiet, intelligent role, protecting the back four with his superb positioning. O’Nien meanwhile was buzzing around, ensuring that his midfield partner didn’t need to overextend his (slightly) aging legs.

A special mention must also be made for that tackle in the 94th minute - a challenge of which the importance cannot be understated. In short, if you take issue with Luke O’Nien in any way, you do not know anything about football.

Further up the pitch, we had a mobile forward whose link up play made the whole attacking unit look cohesive and like there was a plan. The second half underscored this - Wigan barely laid a glove.

This, in large part, was the ability to suck the play back up the field to - chiefly - Ross Stewart and until he switched to wing back, Lynden Gooch; both of whom can occupy multiple players at once. How many times did we see the pressure relieved in this way in the final 20 minutes?

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

It doesn’t mean all is rosy at the Stadium of Light, this is a team that is still a few players light. Wigan targeted the flanks relentlessly, and while Dan Neil was neat and tidy going forward, he was left badly exposed at times. It is not slight on him, but the fact is he is not a left back; there are far more important roles he can play in this team.

The move away from one-paced players such as Wyke and Power couldn’t be more welcome on initial evidence. Players who served this club well to an extent, but ultimately weren’t up to the task - symptomatic of our collective failure in the last three seasons.

A very pleasing start, but in many ways the test against MK Dons next Saturday will be a far better indicator as to where Sunderland are as a club.


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