STEPHANE Sessegnon and Adam Johnson are Sunderland’s two most creative players but so far this season we’ve seen very little of the magic of which both are capable.
May I suggest this weekend wouldn’t be a bad time to start!
I’m a big admirer of both players and it has been a frustration for me, as I’m sure it has been for them, that neither has come remotely close to hitting top form in the Premier League in the current campaign.
Both can point to good reasons for that.
Stephane Sessegnon suffered a bad ankle injury which severely restricted his pre-season preparations and clearly left him playing catch-up in terms of fitness.
Adam Johnson arrived at Sunderland fit enough but has also suffered from injury problems – in his case picked up while on England duty – and has struggled for fitness while at the same time trying to adapt to new team-mates following his move from Manchester City.
Neither have really come to the party this season.
I think we all understand that and the fans have been very patient.
But with the season in mid-October they must by now be edging closer to full sharpness and it would be great if they found their best form in this weekend’s derby.
Both are big game players, the sort of players who will relish rather than be fazed by this weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby – Sessegnon has the confidence to try the most amazing things in the cut and thrust of Premier League games while Johnson is an England winger newly arrived from the Premier League champions determine with a point to prove.
And this Sunday could just be the moment when they finally get their seasons going.
I hope so, because the one part of Sunderland’s game that has let them down this season is the quality of their approach work.
Steven Fletcher is the Black Cats’ only league goalscorer this season but he’s had to work hard for almost every one of those goals – pretty much making them for himself at times.
And what we really need to do soon is start creating a stack of chances rather than have the pressure of having to score each time from just a handful.
Last season, more often than not, when we won matches, it tended to be Sessegnon who was the match-winner.
Johnson too has that capacity to single-handedly turn a game in is team’s favour – we saw glimpses of that, albeit against lower league opposition, in the way he tormented Morecambe’s defence in the Capital One Cup.
And we know he has the quality to do it against the very best opposition.
Both have the ability to create and score goals, both have it in their locker to terrorise defences and we’ll need them to be at it this weekend.
The chances are that Sunderland will go 4-4-2 for this game and if that happens then all of the attacking players need to stand up and be counted and more than just that, they need to be effective.
If Sunderland are to win this weekend against Newcastle, a great deal will depend upon whether Sessegnon and Johnson come to the fore.
Their team-mates, for their part, can contribute by ensuring that both players see the ball as much as possible.
Creative players can only create if they’re in possession and too often this season we’ve seen Johnson and Sessegnon be peripheral in games – although admittedly, part of that has been down to their lack of match fitness.
This Sunday, though, they have to be hungry for the ball and their team-mates must see to it that they receive it at every opportunity.
READ the full Gary Rowell column in Tuesday’s Echo