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Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship

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Why constructive criticism is an important step on the road to recovery from Stoke horror show

“The plaudits have been rightly dished out this season, but Saturday’s 5-1 humiliation against Stoke City is deserving of the swathes of criticism,” writes Paddy Hollis.

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

Three weeks ago we were on cloud nine having gone down to QPR and left with a thumping 3-0 win. The result was our second straight victory and moved Sunderland into fifth in the Championship table. Things were great and we praised Tony Mowbray and the squad for their efforts in getting us there.

Fast forward to the right now and you’ll find a very different outlook on SAFC. Three straight defeats and no win in four is a troubling run for any side which would be worthy of critique - when that latest defeat is the worst in over four decades you really need to get to the source of the issue.

I’ve made no secret in previous articles this season about my approval of Tony Mowbray. His work as Head Coach in the ‘model’ our club has in place has earned him a lot of respect and rightly so. Yet in recent matches it feels as though enough things have gone wrong to warrant concern.

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

Take the 5-1 drubbing as an example. As soon as I saw the line-up and the plan to have Dan Neil and Alex Pritchard together in the middle with no cover yet multiple central midfield options on the bench set alarm bells ringing. The way in which this pair was torn to ribbons once the match kicked off was these concerns being justified.

In some matches this season we’ve been exposed as having a soft underbelly in midfield. It’s a fact that we have a large Corry Evans-shaped hole in that area of the pitch, but what adds to the frustration is we have other midfielders who don’t seem to be able to get a look in.

Granted, Pierre Ekwah and Luke O’Nien may not be the exact sort of player we have in Evans, but the fact the former has barely kicked a ball in the six weeks he’s been here is baffling to say the least.

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

Teams have good runs, and teams have bad runs - that is the nature of football. But any team, whether its Premier League or Wearside League, needs to have a post-mortem of sorts following a 5-1 thrashing. The rest of March sees Sunderland face four of the current top six in a run of games that will test this young side to the limit.

Avoiding a further humiliation is top of our priorities, but putting in better displays and seeing an effort from Mogga and the players is a key step. If we get turned over at Norwich on Sunday but see Mowbray has made changes to his line-up and setup, then some of the concern may be lifted.

We’ve had a great season, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s one which has surpassed the expectations of many of us. Yet if we were to tail off by losing the majority of our remaining games, it would do very little to get us off to a positive start to what will be a significant summer break and transfer window.


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