THE resurgence of Steven Fletcher has been the point of discussion for many Sunderland fans over the past fortnight.
A brace against Stoke and a tidy international break mean things are looking up for the Scotsman, and hopefully he can continue his good form at St. Mary’s tomorrow.
I use the word resurgence. Well, in reality, it’s one good game in red and white.
That’s not a slight on Fletcher though. He’s someone we’ve been quite critical of on recent podcasts, and it’s pleasing to see him looking like the player we signed for big money two years ago.
In some respects, I’m confident he can continue as he left off.
The desire and touch we became accustomed to was back and there for us all to see. He was confident, strong and clinical. However, there’s a slight niggle at the back of my mind.
In the build-up to the victory over Stoke, Gus Poyet mentioned he’d been working on a specific system.
I think that most people would be lying if they said they could have predicted the starting line-up that afternoon.
With Wickham reverting to the left hand side, an area he’d occupied in the opening few games with little success, most were skeptical. It worked. But why did it work?
Was it purely to do with that specific set-up for that game? Or was it that the two had finally clicked in their unorthodox pairing?
More importantly, will Gus persist with this set-up against Southampton?
Fletcher must start. It’s a no brainer. But can he adapt the system that was so successful at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago and accommodate Wickham?
I don’t see how he can drop Connor. He was excellent. He took his goal well, and the run for the third killer strike was phenomenal. He was like a man mountain powering towards goal.
It’s a selection dilemma that will be welcomed, but one that’s impossible to call.
I guess the great thing now is the options at hand. Even with injuries to two key players in forward areas, we’ve still got the likes of Adam Johnson on the bench.
If you can start quickly and get an early lead away from home then hang onto it, space can open up. This is where the likes of Johnson and the injured Alvarez and Giaccherini can really make a difference.
Exploit the spaces in between the lines and make things happen on the break.
Had we squeaked through to an unconvincing win last time out, there’s no doubt in my mind we’d see the return of Johnson and possibly Jack Rodwell. But as it stands, the current front three are, in my eyes, undroppable.
The weekend undoubtedly presents our toughest task of recent weeks, but our recent record against The Saints isn’t too bad.
A new manager means it’ll be a different prospect.
Strikers win you games. Graziano Pelle is on fire, and we have to hope that our own goalscoring centre forward continues his return to form and can match him in front of goal. We know he’s capable, and he’ll have to be if we want to return to Wearside with at least a point come Saturday evening.
– Gareth Barker
The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can be stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.