Chris Coleman must have tactical rethink - either that or get the cattle prods out

Traipsing south over the Wearmouth Bridge at around 5pm on Saturday, I overhead the following joyless, but indicative exchange.

Wednesday, 7th February 2018, 3:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th February 2018, 4:03 pm
Chris Coleman

Bloke A: “Who do we lose to next week?

Bloke B: “Bristol City away.”

Ovie Ejaria made his debut on Saturday

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The gentlemen’s conversation did not appear to be infused with any sort of sarcasm or humour; not even of the grim variety.

Who could blame them? Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the malaise at Sunderland is that much of the anger has been booted out of the fans and replaced by resignation.

At half-time on the concourse four days ago, there was mainly polite chatter along the lines of eee-what-are-they-like; not the baying mob of the past that would snarl disapproval at trailing 2-0 to nondescript opposition.

Which brings us to the other contender in the Most Dispiriting Aspect category: the fact that Sunderland sit second bottom of a league that does not appear to have a single decent side.

Ovie Ejaria made his debut on Saturday

Therefore the sole occupying thought at SAFC this week should be: “How are we going to beat Bristol City?”

The immediate response to this question is usually a selection of sneering and predictable jokes. Mine was.

Sneering and predictable jokes done, it seems clear that a tactical rethink is in order.

We can only hope that the new signings and the youngsters will work. Maybe Ovie Ejaria can become the best number 53 in the business. But beyond blind hope? Or cattle prods?

The manager can’t make his squad any more talented, or turn them into something other than psychological weaklings (they aren’t too bad until they go behind; at which point defeat is confirmed, even at a single goal down and an hour remaining).

Abandoning the five-at-the-back defence should surely be under consideration (and call it what you will, it’s five-at-the-back). Sunderland have simply got to be bolder; not least against the likes of Ipswich at home.

Despite five clean sheets under Chris Coleman, they have still let in a truly awful 52 goals this season. In other words: if it isn’t a clean sheet, expect to concede two.

Considering that the back five usually has two defensive midfielders for further alleged protection, the best form of defence is certainly not defence at present.

Perhaps if there was only four at the back then the ball might spend more of its afternoon in at the right end of the pitch.

We understand that it’s even within the laws of the game to play more than one striker. We’ll Google it to make sure.

Another problem with essentially putting eight defensive players in your 11 is that when, inevitably, Sunderland fall behind, their attacking options in when trying to retrieve the deficit are, to say the least, limited.

The substitutions against Ipswich did not help in this regard.

Just before the hour, a double change was made. One of the players leaving the field was the attacking Joel Asoro. Perhaps he wasn’t having the greatest game, but he can still worry defenders.

Meanwhile, completing the whole 90 minutes was the seemingly indispensable Lee Cattermole.

At 2-0 down, the benefits of persevering with a man whose goals tally in the Stadium of Light is tantalisingly close to that of Jeff Whitley were not obvious. Jeff still leads 1-0 in this dual of giants, despite Cattermole playing there for the best part of a decade.

Presumably there were higher aspirations against Ipswich than maintaining a two-goal deficit.

Poor to the point of indigence though Sunderland are, none of this season’s remaining 16 opposing sides are brilliant either. So they may as well get out and at ‘em. What is there to lose? It won’t make matters worse.

Not for the first time, we ask, does anyone have a better idea?