Five positions letting Chris Coleman down and the solutions he needs to save Sunderland's season
Sunderland's defensive gremlins returned at Cardiff and alongside a growing lack of presence in the final third, it is making for a worrying mix.
The Black Cats are struggling to stay afloat and with money tight, Coleman needs a combination of successful loans and fitness boosts to cobble together a side that can climb out of the relegation zone.
We pick out the five glaring problems and the solutions he needs..
Presence up front
Josh Maja is a real talent but to play up front on his own against Middlesbrough and Cardiff, two of the biggest sides in the league, has been too great an ask.
Coleman wants Sunderland to play out from the back but they also need an out ball and someone who can relieve pressure. Even with James Vaughan in the squad, they were badly lacking presence.
Youth is all well and good and the Black Cats certainly do need pace but it must be balanced with some physicality and experience up front.
A holding midfielder
Chris Coleman surprised many by finding a system and a way of playing that turned Darron Gibson into a hugely effective player.
He was an outlet for his defence, a creative player in terms of finding the wing-backs in space and someone who could set the tempo for the team on the ball.
Ever since he left the pitch against Barnsley, Sunderland have struggled in possession. Lee Cattermole is returning from injury but whether he can replicate Gibson’s rebirth remains to be seen. It certainly does not seem a natural fit.
Coleman will likely have to dip into the transfer market and will hope that he can offload Didier Ndong and Jack Rodwell to free up funds. If he does, Ellis Short simply must allow him to reinvest that money in his engine room.
Williams to get fit, and stay fit
Williams has shown promise in his rare Sunderland appearances and Coleman identified him early on as someone who could be a ‘spark’.
He does not have a big presence or much of a record when it comes to goals and assists, but where he could be very useful is in the current midfield three Coleman has utilised.
He is a player that always shows for the ball and in front of an effective holding midfielder, he could help make Sunderland less predictable and less pedestrian.
The Black Cats boss needs luck with injuries. A number of his players are prone to spells out and Williams is certainly one of those. Time is running out for them to make an impact and change the course of the season.
Consistency in goal
Can Sunderland afford not to find a third goalkeeper option this month?
Mika’s wages have been freed from the wage bill but Robbin Ruiter’s improving form suggested that priorities would switch this month.
Another error at Cardiff, however, set the wheels in motion for a woeful defeat and it is a position that keeps costing Sunderland absolutely vital points. Coleman may have to hope Ruiter can prove it was simply a rare lapse.
Wide players to step up
A limited number of loans available in a matchday squad means that the wide areas is unlikely to be an area Sunderland strengthen this month.
Nevertheless, a lack of output in this position has been crucial to the goal drought that has taken hold in recent weeks.
Coleman could compromise by signing a forward can play up front or just behind, but either way Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman will simply have to start producing.