Three Sunderland fringe players Chris Coleman needs to step up as injuries and festive fixtures bite
Two games in three days offers a significant challenge to Chris Coleman.
His squad is already threadbare, with a number of players looking fatigued at Bramall Lane on Tuesday and Darron Gibson playing through a groin injury.
The Sunderland boss knows the importance of tomorrow’s trip to Nottingham Forest but also acknowledges that they simply cannot afford to be beaten by Barnsley, less than 48 hours later, on New Year’s Day.
Rotation of some element will be required and he will need some of his fringe players to step up.
Here are three he’ll be looking to in particular...
Coleman hopes that Paddy McNair will return to the squad for the Barnsley game but that leaves him very low on numbers in midfield.
He may want to give Gibson a rest after his recent injury and that will potentially mean Marc Wilson moving into midfield.
The Irishman has disappointed since his free transfer on deadline day and, despite some improving performances in a back five, he has struggled in the last two games.
He has played the holding role well in the Premier League and will have to be very disciplined if asked to do it at the City Ground.
McManaman was introduced to the action on Boxing Day, with Sunderland already three goals down and essentially out of the contest.
He has struggled to make much of an impact since Coleman’s arrival and his performances have been a far cry from his early promise, particularly at the KCOM Stadium, where he caused Hull all kinds of problems.
A switch to a back four would likely open up a slot for him and he will need to take it. Aiden McGeady could not take his chance at Bramall Lane and McManaman can’t afford to do the same.
McGeady was given a prominent role against Sheffield United, moved into a central area where he had the freedom to drift across the pitch and create opportunities.
It is certainly true that Sunderland’s deep starting position left him with lots to do, but this was another game where he created little. His form has dipped dramatically at a time when Sunderland desperately need their creative players to be making a difference.