Sunderland’s first game back on English soil after the tour of North America has left head coach Dick Advocaat with a lot to ponder.
The Black Cats - backed by 2,500 supporters - were beaten 2-0 away to Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Jeremain Lens was the star of the show but defensive mistakes cost Sunderland again.
Richard Mennear takes a close look at the loss - the club’s third defeat in five pre-season outings.
Defensive frailties rear their ugly head:
If Sunderland are to achieve anything this season - or at least improve on last season’s relegation struggles - then they need to sort the defence out.
Good teams are based on solid foundations and this Sunderland defence looks far from solid.
Advocaat started with a back four of Billy Jones, John O’Shea, Sebastian Coates and Patrick Van Aanholt.
Will that be the back four that starts away at Leicester City?
There is only one friendly game remaining, Hannover away on Saturday, for Advocaat to make his mind up.
Doncaster’s opener from Cedric Evina was a fine finish, but he was left unmarked at the back post.
Van Aanholt wasn’t tight enough to him and Coates was slow in getting across.
The second half saw Younes Kaboul make his Sunderland debut, partnering Coates and Donny’s second was a result of Coates’s slip and Jack Rodwell’s inability to clear the ball.
It was sloppy and Sunderland looked vulnerable at the back. Again.
A big improvement is needed quickly, with the new campaign just over a week away.
Jermain Defoe is wasted out wide:
Steven Fletcher started for Sunderland, spreaheading an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, with Jermain Defoe, Adam Johnson and Jeremain Lens providing the ammunition.
Fletcher had little in the way of chances and didn’t strengthen his claims for a starting spot.
Defoe, who notched a double against Toronto, had one attempt cleared off the line by Donny stopper Thorsten Stuckman. That was as close as he came.
And he looked a little lost in the system. Would he be better suited as the sole frontman?
Sunderland need his cutting edge in the penalty area, not pushed out wide.
Danny Graham came on at the break and put himself about and if he’d timed his runs a little better he would have got onto the end of Jeremain Lens’ crosses.
The misfiring strikers remain a major concern for Advocaat with no sign of things improving anytime soon.
Lens will provide the ammunition, Advocaat just needs someone to capitalise on it.
New additions desperately needed:
Out of the Sunderland players making their debuts last night - it was Jeremain Lens that shone.
His pace, energy and drive added real creativity to the Sunderland forward line but the Black Cats were unable to take advantage.
He outshone Sebastian Coates (making his first start since re-joing the club on a permanent deal) and Younes Kaboul.
The pair were part of a shaky-looking Sunderland defence that struggled to contain a lively Doncaster forward line.
But if Sunderland are to stave off another relegation battle then more additions are needed, with a striker and creative midfielder key.