How’s it possible that Sunderland can regularly take the lead in matches, appear to be in no danger, and end up throwing the game away?
We’re halfway through the season with a young team, a relatively new head coach, and we’re making the step up from League One. So far, we’ve discovered that the Championship is much more open and somewhat weaker than many first feared, and with some minor changes, we really could become a force.
At the moment, I honestly don’t think that Tony Mowbray knows his best formation or what his strongest first eleven looks like, and that he’s continuing to experiment as we head into the busy Christmas period.
After his first game, several key players were struck by injury and his hand was forced in terms of selection. In fairness, we found some answers, played some good football and picked up a good return of points, considering the holes in the squad.
Now we have players coming back to fitness, we need to get our strongest eleven on the field regularly and in a system that suits them and can get the best out of the attacking potential in the squad.
Once Dan Ballard and Ross Stewart are available, we’ll be much stronger, and I also hope we can find a system that allows both Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts to thrive. When on form, they’re arguably our best players and can turn games in an instant.
At the moment, Sunderland’s inability to close out games is a worry.
The balance between playing good football and being solid is a tricky one and there seems to be a call for more bite in midfield. In response to that, I’d question why we brought in both Jay Matete and more recently Abdoullah Ba if they aren’t the answer.
The January window will be interesting as it offers fringe players a chance to go out on loan, get some first-team football under their belt, and hopefully come back ready to start.
If we do move some players on next month, another midfielder who can control the tempo of a game would be a welcome addition.
When Tom Rogic entered the field on Monday, his quality, vision and experience changed the game for West Brom. Someone who can pull the strings and be a calming influence on their teammates may be of real benefit during the second half of the season.
Defensively, I still think we need a right-back for overall balance and stability.
If we aren’t going to give Niall Huggins or Trai Hume a run in the side, let’s consider loaning them out and recruiting someone who can slot straight in.
One major positive is that the majority of players- bar Ellis Simms, Amad and Edouard Michut- are ours and the foundations are already in place. With that in mind, it’s more a case of small tweaks to the personnel and system rather than a major overhaul.
Once Stewart and Ballard are back, and with the addition of a specialist right-back and a strong midfielder, I can see us picking up more wins than losses during the second half of the season and possibly challenging for the playoffs.