I’m always confident, because I’ve seen enough from this group over the last calendar year to suggest that they can beat any team on their day.
This is really the first bit of adversity that we’ve faced since Lee Johnson was sacked, so it’s a test for the players - and of course, with younger players it’s even harder to learn quickly, but I’m sure they will.
Saturday was our first loss in a while and we just have to accept that there are going to be bad days and days where we lose. It’s just part of football and as a promoted side - one who finished fifth in the league below, don’t forget - you’re expected to lose more often than not.
What I feel is important is that Tony Mowbray realises that we need to find a balance somehow.
We can’t make these players grow physically to deal with the threat we constantly face from set pieces, but we can pick lads in the middle who maybe aren’t the flashiest players, but who’ll graft for every second ball and work hard.
With no Corry Evans available against Wigan, I’m hoping he’ll give Jay Matete and Abdoullah Ba a chance, and really I’d expect us to be more competitive physically than we have been in the last three matches.
If we can do that, get a few players who aren’t in the best of form firing again, and find a solution to our forward problem (Jack Clarke up top, anyone?) then we’ll be fine next weekend. We beat Wigan plenty of times last season and there’s no reason why we can’t again, providing the players are in a good place mentally.
Gary Engel says…
Sunderland’s struggles in front of goal have become quite apparent in the last three matches.
Jack Clarke, one of the season’s brightest sparks, mustered another goal against Swansea, but for all of our exciting, flowing play, we can see exactly what we are lacking.
We know how fascinated those running the club are with stats, and the stats speak volumes. For all of the chances seemingly created, we are not hitting the target often enough.
Tony Mowbray is switched on enough to realise that and if we can focus on those issues in training we can look to regroup against Wigan. We’ve won plaudits for our new brand of football, but we’ve only won one match at home, and our away form and league position has perhaps blindsided us to an extent.
Our match against Wigan isn’t just a chance to get back to winning ways but to turn the corner with our home form, centre forward or no centre forward.
We can come away from the Stadium of Light each week thoroughly entertained and having not won, but a few matches down the line, that mood could change. The Wigan game is a huge match in our season but I’m sure we’ll be ready for the challenge.
Mark Carrick says…
Despite the fact we’ve three draws and a defeat in the last four games, we’ve had chances to take more points than just those three.
Certainly, we’ve been frustrated by the woodwork, some excellent goalkeeping, and decisions where the smallest of fractions the other way could have seen us score. Some of our football has been scintillating, but we have also seen the other side, where deflections or lack of concentration has cost us.
Tony Mowbray will be working on tweaks and changes, considering personnel and their development, whilst hoping to get key players like Ross Stewart, Ellis Simms, Dennis Cirkin, and Daniel Ballard back on the grass.
The break for the World Cup arguably gives players a little more time to recover, and for the recruitment team time to consider plans for the transfer window, but we need to approach the next round of games in the right way to ensure we remain in the top half.
Wigan at home offers a great chance to turn a performance into points.
Making the Stadium of Light a fortress is key to our season and coming up against a side who were promoted from League One last season gives us a chance to lay down a marker.
We have the players and the style to beat the Latics, and should we pick up maximum points on Saturday, it will continue to provide confidence ahead of the trip to Blackburn and the visit of Burnley in the week to come.