Sunderland’s return to the Championship has been refreshing.
It’s seen us play brave and attractive football and reap the rewards more often than not. So, as the campaign heads towards its conclusion, the time has come to reflect on what we’ve got to learn.
When the dust has settled, one thing that desperately needs to be addressed is our home form.
After twenty two games, our record is the fifteenth best in the division. For a team new to the league, this might not seem too bad and in the context of another season and different circumstances, it might not be.
Seven wins, eight draws and seven defeats makes for a fairly average record at the Stadium of Light and although some of the wins have come against tough opposition, some of the losses have been poor.
The manner of this form is made worse by a shocking statistic which was added to during the 1-1 draw against Huddersfield Town, because we’ve now dropped no fewer than nineteen points from winning positions in home games.
I don’t think any of us were under the illusion we were strong at home, but seeing this stat in black and white was a real eye opener. It’s reflective of a team that struggles with game management and seeing out matches, and when you delve into the nitty gritty of those dropped points, it looks even worse.
Roughly ten have been dropped as a result of goals conceded in the eightieth minute or later. Add these points to our current total and we’d be pretty much gearing up for a shot at the playoffs as we speak.
Another angle from which to look at our poor home form is how often we’ve started slowly in the second half during 2023.
In seven home games, we’ve often conceded goals within the first fifteen minutes and in many of these, we’ve looked sluggish after the restart and a goal for the opposition has felt almost inevitable, with Huddersfield being the most recent example.
This bad habit has increased in regularity in recent weeks.
Four of our last six games at the Stadium of Light have seen the opposition find the back of the net at least once, a record which has obviously added to our less-than-impressive statistics.
A worrying run like this is something that can be put down to poor game management and on many occasions, it’s felt like Tony Mowbray has been too slow to react to how a team is playing against us and time and again, the changes are made too late.
You can pin this on our well documented lengthy injury list, but in reality we’ve almost always had the players to be able to see games out, but unfortunately some haven’t been on the pitch when we’ve needed them most.
We’re growing and learning as a club, so this concern shouldn’t be looked upon as doom and gloom, but rectifying our lacklustre Wearside record is certainly something we need to address sooner rather than later, and ending our home schedule with a win against Watford wouldn’t be a bad place to start.