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Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: Discussing potential tactical tweaks for Rotherham!

After Sunderland’s flirtation with a ‘false nine’ system failed to pay dividends against Preston, we asked our writers what changes they would make for Saturday’s clash with the Millers.

Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Gav says...

The first thing I’d do is admit that dropping Hemir was a mistake, and give the lad a run in the team.

He showed in pre-season that he knows where the net is, and just as his confidence was high, he’s been knocked down a peg or two by being brought out of the team. He’s not perfect but he’s all we’ve got right now, and I think it would be detrimental to both the player and the team if we don’t persist with him for a little while.

I’d also bring Alex Pritchard into the fold.

He’s played pretty well when coming off the bench recently and I think we’re lacking something at the tip of the midfield in terms of game management and experience, so whilst his future at the club remains up in the air, I still believe he has something to offer, and I think he and Hemir could work well together.

Otherwise, I’m happy with the makeup of the team and don’t think we need to change too much. I just hope Tony Mowbray keeps things positive and plugs away at doing what we do best, which is to work the ball around the pitch quickly and score goals.

We need to defend better but that only happens if the core of the side has structure, and that’s perhaps the biggest criticism of his approach so far this season that I can give.

It’s not a huge issue, just a tweak, so let’s fix that first.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Carabao Cup - First Round - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says…

I think this is a very difficult situation. We’re approaching our third league game of the season and looking for a first win whilst the future of three experienced players appears to hang in the balance.

The first thing I’d do is bring Danny Batth straight back into the centre of defence, but whether that’s an option for Tony Mowbray at this stage in the transfer window is something I don’t know.

Like most of us, I’m a huge fan of Luke O’Nien, and he’s deputised remarkably at centre back on numerous occasions. However, I just don’t see him as first choice in that position and I’d much prefer to see him deployed at full back, which I think suits his game best.

Batth and Dan Ballard are a good combination of height, the ability to play out from the back through Ballard, and in Batth, a good old-fashioned centre half who’ll dominate both aerially and on the deck.

I think old school theories are being left behind in today’s world of a focus on tactics and the race that every club seems to be in to replicate what Pep Guardiola has mastered so impressively at Barcelona and Man City.

However, we’re in the Championship, a rugged and punishing division in terms of the physical side of the game.

Mowbray’s recent mention of the playoff second leg against Luton, when he admitted he wished Batth had been available, is a sign that he wants the former Stoke man as part of his defence, and I have to say it seems like such an obvious solution to getting our season underway with a clean sheet or two.

At the top end of the pitch, Alex Pritchard should be the obvious number ten, flanked by Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts. Of course we miss Amad, but I honestly feel that Pritchard is an excellent replacement. However, is he on the way out and is starting him therefore really an option?

Jobe Bellingham will still get plenty of opportunities in the weeks and months to come, but I just feel that Pritchard is the man for right now.

I’d also give Hemir a run of games up top as he’s a natural striker, whereas Bradley Dack isn’t and is also not fully match fit.

With Dack, Hemir, Pritchard and Bellingham, surely there’s room for rotation and with clever use of substitutes, so we get the best blend of youth and experience over the coming weeks.

Kelvin Beattie says…

I might be tempted to bring Danny Batth into the centre of defence and give Luke O’Nien a run in the centre of midfield with Pierre Ekwah.

Alex Pritchard has earned a start, though this would have to be for Bradley Dack, who I haven't seen enough of but am happy to have in the squad.

Hemir should start between Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts, and I’d also like to see Clarke and Roberts swap wings from time to time during the game, so that they might naturally hit the byline and cross the ball.

I’d give Dan Neil and Jobe runs to keep their game time going, as they’ve both shown enough to warrant the continued opportunity, for me.

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

Malc Dugdale says…

I think Tony Mowbray needs to find a balance in these coming games before the transfer window comes to an end.

It’s the head coach’s job to be ready for the season, and it can be hard to be sorted by early to mid-August when the window stays open until the end of the month.

All he can do is be as strong as he can be for at least the part from now to January, and he needs to be sure that he has systems and tactics that can deal with as many eventualities as possible.

We’re all hopeful of imminent striking signings and we may well get one as this goes to press, but the season is long and hard. Mowbray and his team did a cracking job last season and against all odds, we almost got to Wembley, which represented an amazing first campaign back in the Championship.

I’d like to see everyone ready but with more options and ideas polished and practiced. Have a few formations and ideas tried and tested, and sort out the concerns with set pieces at both ends of the park.

This week is about showing that the physicality we’ve invested in through players like Pierre Ekwah and Jobe Bellingham gives us what it takes to hold off threats in the same way that our attackers can outplay opponents in terms of technical skills.

We want and need to beat Rotherham this weekend, and we may well have some more players in the door to help with that soon, but my view is that we should keep setting out our stall for the marathon to hand, and try not to worry too much about how physical Rotherham may be, as well as our form.

I trust this team to do their best and I’m very hopeful the backroom boys have some real reinforcements coming.

They may not be ready for Saturday but no season is decided in three games. We should’ve had at least two points so far and have none, but that doesn’t tell me that we won’t be in the mix come Easter.


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