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Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Sunderland still struggling to strike the right balance

“Tony Mowbray has certainly raised some eyebrows with his comments on the ability of the forwards he has at his disposal,” writes Jon Guy.

Still trying to fill the gap - Mowbray in new concerns over quality of striking options
| Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Since the start of last season the issue which has dominated the conversations around this Sunderland side has been our strikers, and it shows little or no sign of abating anytime soon.

We started the previous campaign with Ross Stewart and Ellis Sims leading the line but there were some who said we needed greater depth. They were sadly to be proved right with injury and a decision by Everton to recall Sims leaving the side playing much of the season without a recognised number nine.

Despite the lack of a striker the team stepped up with goals coming from all other areas of the pitch although when he was fit Stewart chipped in with 11. Amad scored some crackers but he went back to Old Trafford leaving the club in need to reinforcements.

Stewart’s departure to Southampton, while not a shock, did little to ease our worries around the forward line. The club however, reacted, bringing in four strikers which would hopefully provide plenty of options.

Southampton Unveil New Signing Ross Stewart Photo by Southampton FC via Getty Images

Maston Burstow arrived from Chelsea and was seen as a rising star, while Hemir came with a decent reputation in Portugal and at well over six feet could be seen as long term replacement for the Loch Ness Drogba. In came Eliezer Mayenda, who promptly injured a hamstring in his first session with the lads, and after a lengthy chase we secured Nazariy Rusyn.

With Hemir starting much of the pre-season the starting position was seemingly his to lose. However, it quickly became apparent that Burstow was seen as Mowbray’s go-to guy for goals. Sadly both Hemir and Burstow have struggled to find the net with Rusyn finally getting his first start last week at Norwich.

The waters have been further muddied this week when Mowbray was asked about his striking options. The old adage the club seems to have adopted is that if you are good enough you are old enough, so a lack of years can be more than outweighed by an abundance of talent.

“We have to assess, moving forward, whether we think we have players who are good enough to score goals in the Championship in our team. They are going to be given opportunities, and when the opportunity comes, let’s see if they score,” Mowbray told the media.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

That is anything but a glowing endorsement of the strikers we have. Rusyn looked very lively on Saturday and looks to have a lot about him. Burstow and Hemir are both young as is Mayenda, but we have to ask ourselves, if the players are not viewed as at a point where they can score goals in the division why have we not signed one that is deemed capable?

Hemir, and Mayenda, have been signed permanently and certainly from what we have seen of Hemir his has a real future ahead of him. Rusyn has played for his country and is 24, so is no novice. With Amad injured and therefore a return to the SoL in August a non-starter Burstow came with a pedigree but has yet to show any real signs that he is the solution.

Rusyn needs to be given a run in the side to allow him to show what he is capable of doing. We have goals in midfield and at the back and if we can get a forward that proves to be a handful that can occupy the defence and create gaps which can be exploited then it would be just as effective as if they were banging in 15 to 20 goals a season.

But the bottom line is that strikers are there to put the ball in the back of the net and Mowbray’s latest statement is the biggest indication yet that we may well be pushing for a new recruit in January.


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