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Sunderland Unveil New Head Coach Tony Mowbray

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Fan Letters: ‘If we were 10% better in just a few areas we would be comfortably top six’

Peter has a few questions for Tony Mowbray, while Tom wonders if we’ll see Stewart and Simms in partnership now the Loch Ness Drogba’s back.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

A key aspect of football coaching should be improving your teams areas of weakness. Like most fans I would love someone to ask Tony Mowbray what they are actually doing about the following:

1. Creating and scoring from key set pieces such as corners and free kicks close to the box. We have been hopeless all year and just saying we don't have enough 6 foot 5 inch players is not acceptable. Good coaches come up with imaginative solutions like the Netherlands did against Argentina in the World Cup. The delivery and movement is poor - Why?

2. Improving our wide defenders/midfield at stopping crosses. Our wide players practically encourage the opposition to cross the ball under minimal pressure. If they stand any further away they might as well not be on that side of the pitch. What are they doing to improve this obvious long-running weakness?

3. Heading the ball. Some of our younger players actually look frightened to head it. I felt Denver Hume was the worst I have ever seen but we have 3 or 4 players in our team who seem scared of putting their head in. If they watch Luke O’Nien who is similar in height to many of them they would learn that if you commit to head properly, it actually doesn’t hurt you. How are they improving this - and I don’t mean throwing balls in the air to Danny Batth who clearly knows how to head the ball.

4. Starting the second half of matches on the front foot would be nice. We are usually second best in the first 10 to 15 minutes at the start of second halves (particularly at home). What is said to fire our team up to start of the second half?

I watched the Sunderland open training session with interest hoping to get an insight into how we worked on weaknesses and largely saw passing and short games (five-a-side style football) which I knows need to be a part of the coaching process. I still have no idea if Roberts, Clarke, Embleton, Gooch, Amad et al are shown how to defend properly against a wide player looking to cross or what the thoughts are at improving corners. All Luke seems to do on corners is try to block opposition defenders and he can head so why is he given this role?

Not sure where I am going with this other than if we were 10% better at the above areas I suspect we would be comfortably in the top 6. I am generally happy with our style and effort in the Championship but feel sure that with the weak areas improved we could be a real force.

Peter Laverick

Ed’s note [Martin]: Thanks for your email Peter, and I agree with a lot of what you have said. Set pieces are a massive concern for me – the fact that we’ve not scored from a free kick or corner before Christmas is ridiculous. Mowbray admitted we’re not practising them as we didn’t have enough big players, which is scandalous really. I have to say I’m not entirely convinced by Mowbray so far – our set pieces, his tactics, team selection and in-game management – are all hugely questionable, but hopefully we’ll see more from him in the second half of the season. Having said all of that, if someone had offered me the points tally we have going into Christmas at the start of the season, I’d have taken it. It’s just frustrating when you can see such clear areas of improvement that should be relatively easy.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Luke sticking his head in!
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Ross Stewart is awesome isn’t he? No offence to Simms but he just isn’t as good, which makes me think we shouldn’t be thinking about how we get both in the team but instead just put Stewart up top in his place and make Simms fight for a shirt and have him coming off the bench. Your thoughts, please.

Tom in Sherburn Village

Ed’s note [Martin]: Completely agree, Tom. Stewart is excellent at playing that lone role, and given the likes of Clarke, Roberts, Amad, Bennette and Pritchard can play in those positions just behind him I’d be surprised if we saw a Simms/Stewart partnership from the off too regularly. I’d like to see us go after a fast, nippy striker who plays on the last man in January – we’ll surely see another striker come in – so that could change things up again.

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