Mark Roberts says...
After three disappointing results, a bucketful of angst spilt over as I sat and watched the game against Swansea with my Dad Keith.
He didn’t claim that the first half was our worst forty five minutes that he’d seen, and I agreed.
For us, that was how things went during the Middlesbrough game, including the warm-up. Swansea, meanwhile, lie sixth in the league, and they have won four games on the trot. In the second half we could’ve picked up a point and none of the finger-pointing would’ve occurred.
The game against Stoke was similar affair, except for two differences: we kept a clean sheet and Ross Stewart scored on our only breakaway in the forty fourth minute.
Between Swansea and Wigan, we have a week’s break, and Corry Evans is banned, so it is time to panic? Why do we have a pop at our own? These are two lads from Sunderland, who give their all for the club.
Yes, Dan Neil’s touch was a little off on Saturday, as was Embleton’s the week before, but who played a major part a week before in that goal against Reading? Against Blackpool, Embleton was the brightest spark for me and his touch was exquisite.
What about Lynden Gooch, Alex Pritchard or Patrick Roberts? No one has particularly shone, and Jack Clarke has edged it.
The fact is that without Stewart, we are up against it. Wigan are physical, so should Luke O’Nien play in Evans’ role with Dennis Cirkin at the back? Is Abdoullah Ba not ready?
Whatever happens, I’d back the Sunderland lads.
Phil West says…
At this moment in time, neither Neil nor Embleton are in peak form, and neither player is influencing games to the degree that we’d all like them to.
That is not to say that they’re not talented enough for this level or that they won’t come good- simply that they’re going through a rough spell of form and that perhaps a game or two out of the starting eleven might benefit them. After all, it is a long, hard season, and we don’t want to repeat the errors that were made under Lee Johnson- being too reliant on certain players and burning them out with a large number of games left to play.
In Neil’s case, it is his lack of defensive discipline and positional awareness that is hindering him.
He isn’t a naturally defensively-minded player, which isn’t particularly problematic when we are on the front foot and controlling matches, but as we saw against Swansea, it does become an issue if the momentum is against us.
In Jay Matete, we have a genuine box-to-box midfielder who’ll get stuck in and do the hard yards, but can also break up the play and retain possession when needed. Bring him into the midfield, and all of a sudden, the entire dynamic is different. There is also Abdoullah Ba, who has impressed during cameo appearances and would be more than capable of rising to the challenge if he were to start on Saturday.
Embleton, meanwhile, has not shone in recent games, and we are not exactly short of playmakers, so perhaps Tony Mowbray could use him from the bench for the final half an hour, and task him with being a game-changing presence if the match is tight and we are seeking an injection of quality.
Malc Dugdale says…
My view is that a handful of players have had poor periods in games so far this season, so I see no more reason to rest Embleton and Neil than to rest others such as Lynden Gooch or Luke O’Nien.
Gooch has had a poor spell but hasn’t been dropped, and O’Nien scored an own goal recently, without which we would have won the game at Watford. We can’t expect these lads to be top-notch for ninety minutes every week when they are new to this division, and if they could do that by now, they wouldn’t be at Sunderland.
Tony Mowbray clearly learned from the first half in Swansea and we won the second half, just not by enough to get anything from the match, and Mowbray’s knowledge of the team and the ways we can play against different challenges will get better.
We have plenty of reasons not to allow Saturday’s loss, or the draws before that to cause too much concern.
This is our first season at this level for four years, and we have players with ambition, drive, creativity and youth, rather than journeymen who give less of a toss about Sunderland than those up the road. We have had a good start but were always going to lose a few games, and even when we have lost we have been competitive.
In addition, we are still learning a lot about the new players, and as that happens we will have spells of poor form and results. The team are still gelling and will get better over time.
I say we let the gaffer pick the best team to beat Wigan.
If he feels that someone needs to rotate out, then he will do that. On the other hand, if they are the best option to help us resume winning form at home, given our captain Corry Evans is out, and if he plays Embleton or Neil, or both, we back him and we back those lads to deliver for us.
Mowbray is no mug, and compared to him I am no expert.
‘Keep the faith’ is a mantra we need to stick by when things get a bit more challenging, and that is now, so let’s do it!