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West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: How impressive has Sunderland’s creative play been this season?

The Lads have played some devastating attacking football during 2022/2023 and it’s taken us to the brink of the playoffs. We asked our writers for their thoughts on how effective it’s been to watch!

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Andrew Parrington says...

I’ve been impressed not only with our attacking, creative displays but also the progression from September/October.

We have clearly pursued a vision, stuck with it, and it’s paying dividends.

We might not be storming the league, but for a newly promoted team in the Championship after years stuck in League One, I don’t think we could ask for more.

A lot of the credit for that has to go to Tony Mowbray. He has taken a very young team through some tough results, and even tougher circumstances due to injuries.

He has trusted this squad, and bar a few bad days it has left us with a team expressing itself and fun to watch.

People gave us a lot of credit towards the end of last season for our determination to keep going, and it’s nice to see that is still the case in this league.

However this season ends, I’m excited for what next season brings if we can keep going with this ethos.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - The Hawthorns Photo by Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

I’ve been really impressed with our creativity this season, especially as it’s flourished in such adversity.

The main reason I’m impressed is because of the fact that it was partially forced upon the squad, rather than being the main threat we intended to pose from day one.

If we had fit strikers such as Ross Stewart, would we have been more tempted to slot him through to use his pace, or to drop a cross onto his head? Of course we would, but the situation has been forced on the team through injuries and the recruitment not quite working out in January.

To succeed as we have done has been incredible, because injury lists such as ours relegate teams every season, but our squad has thrived.

We’re in the top six on points and goal difference, and it’s also great that we have a better goal difference than everyone outside the top five, and that’s without any recognised strikers for almost two thirds of the season.

You don’t develop a season long goal difference by only defending well, which we’ve sometimes failed to do, such as at home to Stoke.

The creativity for our winner on Sunday was awesome, but the other thing I really enjoy is our new-found patience in play and structured build up.

A few years ago, we would pass backwards and sideways with no real purpose but these days, as was demonstrated on Sunday afternoon, we go back with the ball to pull defences out and then we pounce as they try to resume positions we’ve disrupted.

Without that drawing out action in the build up, we wouldn’t have disturbed West Brom’s setup and we probably wouldn’t have scored the winner.

While some of results have been down to Tony Mowbray getting the tactics and selection wrong and then also not changing it soon enough, the general trend of creativity being developed and applied all season has to be credited to him and the coaching team in equal measure.

He’s done a grand job with minimal resources since replacing Alex Neil and whatever happens from this point on, well done Tony and the lads!

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

Paddy Hollis says...

In twenty years of watching the Lads, this has been arguably the best when it’s come to attacking play.

The way we’ve moved the ball forward this season has been unreal at times, and it’s an example of how these young players have been given the freedom of expression that previous managers have not offered them.

We’ve talked lots of times about how we’ve scored some brilliant goals this year and it’s actually nice that not many of them have been thirty yarders.

The great goals we’ve scored have been carved out through skill and patience and although plenty of teams have sat back to try and stop us playing our game, very rarely have they succeeded.

I’ve been so impressed with the ways in which we’ve unlocked tough defences with our determination, and Patrick Roberts’ winner in the 1-0 victory against Reading was a prime example of us eventually getting the better of a team that didn’t look interested in playing football.

The attacking players such as Jack Clarke, Roberts and Amad have relied on a lot this season, but they’ve jumped at the opportunity and have helped to propel us to the fringes of another top six finish.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images


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