For the past three seasons, the club has been building a young and dynamic squad and in many ways, it’s been done back to front.
We’ve invested heavily in defence and midfield over recent transfer windows at a time when we were crying out for strikers.
The erstwhile Ross Stewart carried the goalscoring burden as we emerged from League One and despite exceeding expectations last season, it could’ve been so much more had Stewart and Ellis Simms stayed fit, and if the former Everton striker had remained at the club for the second half of the season.
We now have four players who can potentially lead the line and for Tony Mowbray, the decision on who takes those positions is becoming more difficult.
Sunday’s game possibly led to a few more questions as Cardiff did their homework, arrived with a plan and challenged us to break them down, whilst clearly looking to hit us on the break and make use of set pieces.
We have one of the most exciting sides I’ve seen in my fifty years of watching Sunderland and the range of young talent is immense.
However, what Sunday showed is that we need to find a cutting edge when plan A is thwarted. We do have goal threats in all areas of the pitch but Mowbray needs to decide who’ll provide the point of our attack and with it, lead the line.
So far, Hemir has shown flashes of the player we all know he’ll become. He offers a presence up top but needs support and it’s there that the questions arise.
Can Mason Burstow work alongside him?
Burstow came with a decent reputation from Chelsea and the fans I spoke to when he signed said they feel he’s one of the youngsters who has a decent chance of breaking into their first team.
Mowbray has raved about his performances in training but at present, that hasn’t been transferred to match days.
He can do that with confidence and Mowbray clearly has faith, so it’s likely he’ll be given more time to show his worth, and to allow those around him to understand how he wants to play and the service he requires.
This week saw Adil Aouchiche and Nazariy Rusyn catch the eye with their performances for the U21s against Derby and having seen the game, Rusyn looks to be a class act at this level.
Mowbray has said both Aouchiche and Rusyn will need time to bed in, but I feel that their cameos in the first team and performances for the U21s have to put them in the frame for Friday, and I’d hope it’ll be for longer than the final fifteen minutes.
The great thing about the current situation is that as fans, we have the opportunity to discuss who we think should play and where.
The options are numerous and gone are the days in the all-too-recent past where the first eleven effectively picked itself and we feared the worst should any players suffer injuries or suspensions.
We all have an opinion and mine is that Hemir and Rusyn may prove to be the most successful partnership when Rusyn is deemed to be integrated and match fit. A physical presence alongside a quick and skillful striker will provide the team with the ability to adopt different strategies and pose different threats for opponents.