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Sunderland v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship

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Assessing Mike Dodds’ impact as interim Sunderland head coach

As the search for Tony Mowbray’s successor continues, Dodds has overseen two impressive victories over West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United, so what’s the biggest thing he’s been able to change?

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Anthony Gair says…

Simply put, our tactical nous and ability to defend against the run of play, although it wasn’t quite as prevalent against West Bromwich Albion when we were more positive and expected to score against their defence.

We set up fairly similar to a Tony Mowbray team but we looked more intense, we wanted the ball more, and the full backs played a huge part in the game.

Under Dodds, Trai Hume and Niall Huggins have become the enforcers and on Tuesday night, Djed Spence found that if he took the ball down the wing, he was going to get poleaxed by Hume and that Huggins was doing something similar on the other side.

The game against Leeds showed me that Dodds has a plan B.

Mowbray’s plan A was to play football, pass the ball around the other team and put the ball in the net with little to no emphasis on defending at times, just a hope that Dan Ballard would stop the opposition.

Against Leeds, Dodds showed that if we set up as a defensive outfit, we can stop the most attack-minded of sides and perhaps nick a winner on the break.

Usually when you play like that, it’s boring. Think of Sam Allardyce’s Bolton or Wimbledon of the 1990’s. It wasn’t great to watch but it brought results.

Tuesday, however, was great to watch, as we were thrilling when we got the ball and we arguably had the better chances. Without Illan Meslier, they would’ve lost by two or maybe three goals.

I do think we need to keep Dodds backstage though, as he’s obviously magnificent with the young players and can push their capabilities and attributes to the next level.

Bring on Bristol City really, because even if we get beaten, the last two games have taken a heap of pressure off everyone, but another win will show the Championship that we mean business, whether that’s under Dodds or someone else.

Sunderland v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Kev Barker says…

The game that stands out is Leeds.

Under Tony Mowbray, we would’ve gone toe to toe with the visitors and probably lost 4-3, but if a new head coach had been in the dugout on Tuesday, we’d be raving about the appointment and their tactical genius!

We set our stall out to defend, to let them have possession and asked the question that so many teams have asked us: ‘can you break us down?’

It was strange to watch initially after dominating possession more often than not this season and I did think we’d possibly shown them too much respect.

The team then grew in confidence as the game went on and the master plan to then bring our strong attacking players on and push for the win was amazing, and it showed how astute Dodds can be.

Daniel Farke can’t have anticipated our game plan. He did little to change the outcome during the game, and the biggest thing in the last week is the ability to change the game with substitutes as well as having a plan B.

Dodds deserves a lot of credit for his bravery in the team set up and selection, particularly the decision to change it up after a good win against West Brom.

Regardless of whether he gets the job or not, he deserves a lot of praise and has shown what can be done with the squad available.

Malc Dugdale says…

The organisation has definitely improved and the tactical awareness looks a cut above, but one of the most notable changes for me is the attitude and application of the players.

I thought it was maybe a one off when we played the way we did against West Brom, but after watching the Leeds match, it’s very clear that this team is now playing as one, and they’re doing it for each other and for Dodds.

During the last few weeks of Mowbray’s tenure, the team was all over the place.

They looked lethargic, uninspired and a bit bored, a lot like the old days when people turned up for the paycheque and not the match.

Although we’re only two games into Dodds’ interim reign, the togetherness seems to have returned and the graft we get from this side when they’re united under the temporary coach has been plain to see.

I doubt whether Dodds will keep the job, but if we can bring the new gaffer in and continue with this kind of team spirit and togetherness, along with the structure, tactics and momentum, we’re going to be hard to stop.

Sunderland v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images


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