Bringing in Jenson Seelt would seem a bit knee-jerk and reactionary to me, because during the majority of games this season, we’ve done just fine when defending set pieces.
We’ve kept clean sheets and we’ve seen improvements from our goalkeeper in commanding his area, and I think Luke O’Nien and Dan Ballard have been magnificent together.
It’s only really recently where I feel we’ve become vulnerable again on corners.
Tony Mowbray said after the Leicester game that it was disappointing because we spend so much time working on defending set pieces, so I’d say it’s not really a result of the effort and work we’re putting in, but perhaps more an issue of who’s giving the direction and whether we need to look at adapting tactically.
The problem with some of the recent goals we’ve conceded is that they were glaringly bad and now every team we face is going to look to exploit it, just like many teams did towards the end of the last season when we barely had a defender to stick out there and we became the set-piece whipping boys of the Championship.
Really, the team and coaches need to have an open and honest discussion about where things are going wrong.
People need to put their hands up in the analysis and admit where they’ve made mistakes, and the players need to have input into where we go from here. From there, we take it out onto the training pitch and we get better.
Because of the short turnaround between games this week, it’s almost impossible to do that, but after Norwich we’ve got a week until the next game and that’s where I’d think we can make the most improvements.
We’re a young team and I know the lack of experience occasionally hurts us, but to play for a club like Sunderland, you have to play with a big set of balls and that means taking ownership.
If you let poor players take advantage of your lack of physicality and character, they’ll do it again, and again, and again.
So for the lads in the team at the minute, I’d say they need to grow up a little bit, get more physical and remember how it feels to play really well in a game, only to concede a shit goal from a corner.
It’s not nice, is it? So sort it out between yourselves.
Jon Guy says…
Our lack of height at set pieces cost us our play off semi-final last year. Luton clearly saw the weaknesses, and we all saw the problems when facing a few players six feet in height or taller.
Dan Ballard and Pierre Ekwah provide some height, as does Jobe, although James Justin got the run on him for the goal on Tuesday.
Small and skilful players are great when we have the ball, but the lack of height is a major problem when defending and attacking set pieces.
Is drafting in taller players the answer? I have to say yes. When everyone is fit, I’d go so far as to bring Jenson Seelt in at centre half alongside Ballard, with Aji Alese at left back.
We need to have a real presence in our box when defending, and to be asking questions in the opposition box from corners and free kicks.
At present, the opposition simply pick up Ballard and although it’s potentially sad for Luke O’Nien, we’re being found out time and time again.
Malc Dugdale says…
Although it was very disappointing to lose by one goal, it was also annoying that the goal was mainly down to poor defending from a corner, but I’m not sure whether that should lead to wholesale changes in personnel.
We let conceded one goal against a free-scoring side but in general, the defending was immense, especially some of the last-ditch stuff against a very strong team. Anthony Patterson getting man of the match from Sky Sports reinforced that fact, and some of his saves were incredible.
Whilst it’s true that a couple of our lads should’ve made the run and header a lot harder for James Justin, he deserves some credit for the movement and execution.
Maybe someone could’ve attached themselves to him and prevented that run, and someone should’ve got up in front of him to clear the header, or to make the chance more difficult. Hindsight is generally 20/20, though.
It appeared from the replays that we may have been defending in zones, which is fine if it works, but against a team such as Leicester, the awareness of the man in each zone needs to be red hot to prevent good movement from causing confusion and hence more opportunity. Justin’s movement was better than our zonal focus, which we have to learn from.
If we weren’t defending in zones and went man to man, our core defenders would’ve likely picked up the Foxes’ attackers and attacking midfielders, plus maybe the tall lads who came come up for the corner.
Justin isn’t really one of them, so we might’ve had a similar lack of attention in that situation, and sometimes you have to accept lapses in concentration in young and developing players like Pierre Ekwah and Jobe, who both may have done more.
Whilst I’d like to see Seelt introduced and I definitely think more homework is needed on corners and defending from set pieces, our young and team experienced a brief lapse against a good side and went down 1-0.
At the other end, we had more shots than them and almost 50% possession, but we just didn’t manage to convert that into at least a point.
Seelt’s time will come, and while I say ‘Let’s not repeat that type of error too often’, that was a decent performance by a young and developing team, and not something we should react to with too many changes.