DESPITE the short-lived optimism which surrounded Sunderland following the fantastic late victory over Chelsea in the Capital One Cup last week, there are still more questions pertaining to the Black Cats squad than answers.
Gus Poyet must find solutions to these problems and he must find them quickly.
Despite being rooted to the bottom of the table, there have been one or two things that Sunderland have been able to do reasonably well this season.
Scraping by with goalless draws has been one thing that has kept the Sunderland faithful somewhat optimistic going into January as they sit just four points behind seventeenth-placed West Ham.
Unfortunately, these rare points Sunderland have accumulated through clean-sheet draws have come against sides that are conceivably still in touching distance. Coming away from fixtures against Aston Villa, West Ham and Norwich with 0-0 draws is simply not good enough if Sunderland are to beat the drop.
However, the underlying problem for Sunderland this season cannot be pinned on the defensive end, but rather on their lack of goals.
Goals have been hard to come by in recent years, leaving fans dreaming of the side that scored a Black Cats record number of Premier League home goals in the early days of Steve Bruce’s reign.
Considering Sunderland are far removed from the days of Kevin Phillips, Niall Quinn, or Nicky Summerbee to provide the ammunition, what has been the main difference missing from the Stadium of Light today?
Quite simply, that was the last time Sunderland stuck to regularly playing with two forwards.
It isn’t rocket science to play with two strikers, but it may not be the simplest of changes either.
Although Poyet appears to have quelled the onslaught in the other direction, there is a chronic problem up front that needs to be fixed.
Too often, Sunderland’s good play produces a cross with only one red-and white-shirt in the box to attack. By Poyet’s own admission, he isn’t against a change of formation or strategy.
He experimented with a formation change during the middle of a match with the Seagulls. His tactical change worked so well that he decided to implement the change on a permanent basis.
So far with the possession brand that Poyet has brought in, there has been a need for an extra man in the centre of midfield to regain the ball. Perhaps, that wouldn’t be such an issue if the forward players worked as hard gaining it back higher up the pitch as they do in possession.
That proved to be the difference against Chelsea late on as Fabio Borini and Emanuele Giaccherini proved quite prepared to do just that.
Borini and Ki also gambled more than ever to get into the box which proves that an extra player in the box doesn’t necessarily have to be an out and out forward.
This has been highlighted by Sunderland’s vulnerability against Spurs two weeks ago as London outfit dissected the 4-4-2 on their way to a 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats struggled to keep possession which saw their confidence drop.
After this match, Poyet was presented with enough evidence that he currently does not have the proper personnel to implement the formation change any time soon.
One of the primary signifiers of this fact is summer signing Jozy Altidore’s and his lack of goal scroing confidence.
It can be said that even a player like Didier Drogba struggled for two seasons to find his feet in the Premier League until he was given a strike-partner, which could give fans optimism that the American will come good.
However, there’s a lack of options at Sunderland, so a strike partner doesn’t seem to be coming soon.
Steven Fletcher doesn’t appear match fit just yet and it’s difficult to envisage Poyet playing Fabio Borini up top.
A combination with Borini as a deep-lying forward ready to burst beyond Altidore could be the compromise needed, but we have yet to see signs of this partnership forming. Let’s hope Gus Poyet thinks the same way before it’s beyond Sunderland completely.
This may be Sunderland’s best hope until January when the fans pray a ready made goal-scoring saviour can be unearthed.
If you could please give the below credit on each article that would be great.
This article was written by FTBpro’s Gary Engel
www.FTBpro.com is the largest fan-generated football media brand with millions of users around the world, featuring analysis and insights from the people with the passion to start the conversation – the fans.