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Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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In which areas can Sunderland continue to improve after some occasional blips this season?

The Lads have settled back into the Championship after some encouraging performances and results, and Kyle Garrett looks at the areas in which we could be even better

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Game management

We’ve had a very good start to the season, but we could’ve been even further up the table if it hadn’t been for some occasionally poor game management.

As a result of games at the start of the season, Sunderland are at least four points behind where we should be. Conceding late goals against Coventry and QPR were real sucker punches, and our players' inexperience at this level was telling.

They do seem to be rising to the challenge of Championship football (the Rotherham and Reading games are a perfect example of this) and we should be proud of them. However, we can and must manage games better, because it could cost us dearly in the future if we don’t.

Even at 0-3 during the Reading game, the Royals created three or four chances which could’ve changed the game if their offensive players had demonstrated a little more composure.

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


Before last Saturday’s game at Watford, I wouldn’t have had this down as a big concern, and whilst we have occasionally been outmuscled, we have never once been bullied out of a game.

Saturday was the first occasion this season where I felt the opposition were superior to us.

For the first seventy minutes in Hertfordshire, Watford completely dominated and players like Corry Evans, Elliot Embleton and Alex Pritchard were up against it. Our injection of pace in the second half meant that we managed to grab a point and could’ve even won the game in the final fifteen minutes.

I think this shows just how good the result was against the Hornets, because we found a way to salvage a result in really difficult circumstances.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Wing-back awareness

Every week we are being targeted down both of our flanks.

Offensively, Jack Clarke and Lynden Gooch have been outstanding, but are often being caught out in their defensive duties. Therefore, we need to work out a way in which we can snuff out the danger from wide areas before the ball is played out.

Wingers in the Championship are full of quality and will punish the smallest mistakes. Clarke and Gooch are both wingers by trade, making the wing-back position rather unnatural for both.

It is up to the individuals to work on their defensive qualities in training, but they could also do with a little more help from the wide centre backs.

Whoever plays in those positions, whether it is Aji Alese, Luke O’Nien or someone else, they need to be able to provide cover when needed. Since he came into the side, Alese has been magnificent, and our left side has been much sounder defensively as a result.

The right side now needs to be shored up, because a large proportion of the goals we have conceded have come through a gap between Gooch and O’Nien.

Should the Lads tighten up defensively, we can become a force to be reckoned with this season.


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