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Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship

Sunday proved the need for reinforcements at Sunderland

Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Ipswich had its positives and negatives, but after a first opening-day defeat in seven years, Finlay Anderson looks at the need for new additions before the window shuts.

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

There was barely four minutes on the clock, and we were already on the attack.

The give-and-go passing philosophy was back, as the Black Cats had made a rather dominant opening to proceedings.

After a succession of quick-fire passes, Dan Neil spun away from Massimo Luongo and drove at the heart of the Ipswich defence, before a Jobe Bellingham dummy set Neil’s pass straight into the stride of Jack Clarke.

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

After getting to the byline, a cut-back was fired straight against the out-stretched glove of the Ipswich goalkeeper before the Tractor Boys were able to clear.

The Sunderland of last season – the one that sparkled with some superb attacking football and the desire for more – was back, and within the opening 15 minutes, it was on show for the whole league to witness once again.

But, with all of our wonderful attacking qualities returning, the defensive fragilities and lack of cutting edge in forward areas continued to overshadow the opening-day defeat.

Only ten minutes after Clarke’s cut-back, and after 15 of straight Sunderland control, Ipswich went down the other end of the pitch and had a miles better opening when Leif Davis’ shot was scooped clear by Luke O’Nien.

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

For all Sunderland dominated and controlled possession, the lack of an attacking threat was clear – and it leaves the club at a major point in the transfer window.

There’s little doubt to say that we’ve strengthened in all departments so far over the summer.

Defensively, the additions of Nectarios Triantis and Jenson Seelt have provided additional height and quality to the ranks – although Triantis isn’t a first-choice at the moment, and Seelt remains on the injury list.

Meanwhile, up top, the signings of Hemir and Eliezer Mayenda (the latter, again, restricted due to injury) have added bodies in the rather depleted forward line.

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

Yet, it’s in that area where Sunderland looked the weakest on Sunday evening.

In pre-season, Hemir provided Mowbray exactly what he was missing last season - a physical presence that has a deadly eye for goal, but on his Championship debut, he was largely isolated from the table, struggling to make an impact.

Of course, Hemir is looking for service to his feet and aerially, but again, quality in the final third was lacking massively.

We all know what Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts can do on their day, but both looked rusty and while Clarke was moved into a more central area after Hemir was substituted, Roberts huffed and puffed but was largely nullified by Leif Davis.

Yet, within all of the criticism that you can throw at Sunday’s performance, Jobe Bellingham’s Championship debut in red-and-white proved exciting.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The ease of how he dropped in and between the lines during the opening stages, and how he adapted his play to fit the Mowbray philosophy looks like he could be instrumental going forward.

Get Clarke and Roberts at their peak and integrate Bellingham in the centre of those two, and suddenly that may look like a force to be reckoned with.

However, we still need more support in attack.

Youth over experience is the club's motto, but while it comes with its massive positives, it will take some time to get them sped up with the nature of Championship football and the internal demands of Mowbray and his team.

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

Also, it’s easy not to forget that these new prospects are just youngsters settling into new cultures and a new way of life, so it’s likely to take them some time to get up to speed.

Sunday was just the first test of many this season, the first game of a long 46-match season, and no one is expecting perfection on day one – so there’s absolutely no reason to push the panic button.

There was plenty to learn, plenty to enjoy, plenty to feel tense about, and plenty to create some optimism and hope for the future.

With some new additions, we may just be a force in this league again this season.


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