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Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: What can Sunderland do to arrest their current slide?

After three defeats in a row, it’s clear that something needs to change. We asked our writers for their thoughts on what Tony Mowbray can do to solve the problems we face

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jon Guy says…

Mowbray says the issue is that we don’t have a forward running in behind and it’s allowing the opposition to push on and smother our attacking efforts.

If that’s the case, we need to change things up.

I’d put Jewison Bennette down the middle and tell him to get on behind the centre backs. Get the defence turning and they’ll need to play deeper, allowing us more space in the final third of the pitch.

We need more physicality in the middle of the park, which was all too obvious on Saturday. Pierre Ekwah has to come into the midfield and I’d also have Luke O’Nien in front of the back four to give Dan Neil a rest.

I’d also put Alex Pritchard in the number role to feed Jewi through the middle with Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke wide.

The only issue we might have with the above is that Aji Alese came off injured on Saturday, which could see O’Nien drafted into the back four.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says…

Getting our house back in order is more important, certainly in the short term, than results.

That might seem like an odd statement, but we should have enough points on the board to stay up and there should be no panic to try and force a promotion this season.

Danny Batth and Dan Neil have played more than most this campaign, so it’s time to take them out of the firing line, as well as any others who Tony Mowbray and his staff believe are in need of a break.

I’d be happy to make wholesale changes if it rests tired legs and also gives various fringe players a chance to stake their claim.

I’ve longed to see Pierre Ekwah in midfield to discover if he will add some much-needed physical presence, and Abdoullah Ba, Jewison Bennette and Isaac Lihadji will all be chomping at the bit to get their chance.

I also believe Luke O’Nien would offer some protection in a holding midfield role, as he did to great effect at QPR.

After a poor run of form, you have to go back to basics, so whatever the starting XI, let’s make sure it’s as fresh and as energetic as possible.

Let’s also put the focus on winning tackles and 50/50 battles, keeping the ball in possession, and running the extra mile.

In short, freshen up the team and play the game like it’s a cup final. I know we’ve become known for our football this season, but teams have been working us out and we need to change the record a bit.

I still believe that if we had a battering ram centre forward to occupy defences, the likes of Patrick Roberts, Amad and Ba would enjoy the space to cause problems, as they’ve done for much of the campaign.

With that in mind, why not dabble with Aji Alese up there again, or even Danny Batth? I know he’s tired, but they say a change is as good as a rest.

A crackers idea, you might say, but there was a time when centre halves would do a job up front when called upon.

Paddy Hayes says…

Saturday’s drubbing should be the catalyst for rethinking the starting XI.

The regulars that have been fielded over the last two weeks haven’t exactly inspired confidence from back to front, and I’d start with Danny Batth.

Following a terrific first five months or so, his form seems to have dissipated, so I’d bring in Luke O’Nien alongside Ballard at centre half, leaving Pierre Ekwah as our physical presence in a midfield pairing of himself and Edouard Michut.

Aside from the goal, Alex Pritchard’s contribution against Stoke was minimal and I think Abdoullah Ba is deserving of a start in front of the midfield two.

I’d be slightly reluctant to completely overhaul a system and formation the players have become so accustomed to, and it may do more harm than good to opt for a complete revamp in style.

With Batth and Dan Neil dropped, I’d also have Amad next to them on the bench, given that his form has also taken quite a steep decline.

This would leave us with Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke and Jewison Bennette up top, whose energy and eagerness to press will make him a nuisance for opposing defenders.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images


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