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Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship

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Reader’s Corner: “Sunderland need to toughen up in order to succeed in this league!”

RR reader Peter Laverick says that the Lads need to develop a tougher streak and more defensive awareness to go along with their undoubted skill

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Football analysis definitely divides opinion regarding individual players and team performances.

Like most fans, I have players that I like and others that I criticise harshly, particularly when they don’t do the basics of working hard and getting stuck in. I also believe it is impossible to develop the natural talent that say, Patrick Roberts has, but surely every player can improve their work rate or their desire to win the ball back?

My main reason for writing in is to stand up for our central defenders, regarding the goals that have been conceded recently.

Some members of your team seem fixated with blaming Luke O’Nien in particular for allowing these chances for opposing teams. In fact, they often credit other players without checking the actual statistics.

Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

For example, Danny Batth marked Ashley Barnes out of the game on his own on Saturday, when the post-game analysis shows that O’Nien probably did more defending against him than Batth.

One thing that is evident is our inability to stop teams exposing our flanks.

The talent we possess in our side comes at a price, and this is often a weakness in either stopping players from crossing, or coming inside to shoot.

To be fair to Roberts and Jack Clarke, they influence games for Sunderland because they have skill in abundance and can often beat one or two players with ease.

However, we often get exposed by lesser-talented opposition players because we are either weak in the challenge, guilty of standing off our men, or of allowing players to run past our midfield or wing-backs.

This is not the fault of the central defenders, but it does put them under considerable pressure.

In the very best teams, attacks are cut out well before they reach the danger area and central defenders can do the kind of job that O’Nien and Batth did so well during the first half against Burnley.

We were simply outplayed during the second half, and totally lost control of the game in midfield.

Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

In an ideal world, a back three of Daniel Ballard, Batth and Aji Alese, with O’Nien and Dennis Cirkin at wing-back and supported by Corry Evans in the holding role would provide a far more solid defensive unit.

On the other hand, would our play be slightly less exciting as a result?

Let’s keep supporting our players, and although everyone has a right to their opinion, let’s admit our own preferences and do some self-reflection before writing an email or sharing thoughts on Twitter.

Over the past four to five years. no one has tried harder or been a better ambassador for our club than Luke O’Nien.

He will never have the physical presence of Batth, Ballard or Alese, but in my opinion, he’s done a fantastic job as a stand-in centre-half whilst playing in a league where the football is of a higher standard than he’s ever experienced.


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