This is why Jack Ross must trust his attacking instincts more than ever at Sunderland

For any manager it is a balancing act.

Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 12:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 12:52 pm
Sunderland manager Jack Ross issues instructions

How much do you worry about the opposition and how much do you simply focus on your own strengths?

The easy answer, I suppose, is that it depends on the quality of your players.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Pep Guardiola, for example, will stress far less about the opposition than, say, Neil Warnock.

The question is pertinent on Wearside currently as Jack Ross ponders how to get his Sunderland side back on track. Generally speaking, they have made an excellent start to the season, showing signs of unity as a squad and playing, in patches at least, some good football.

Three games without a win has tempered the mood a touch, however, particularly as some recurring signs of frailty have crept in.

Sunderland have regularly looked second best in the physical battle and their defending from set pieces has been woeful.

SAFC coverage in association with John Hogg

The Black Cats boss admits that he and his team have been taken aback by the aggression with which other teams have played.

The free-flowing football seen at St Mirren in pre-season, when the Black Cats had all of the ball and their front three rotated with joyful abandon, has been harder to achieve and Ross will have to make some adjustments in the coming weeks.

A touch more height and presence through the team would be welcome and, certainly, some relentless work on dead-ball situations is in order.

Ross has already said that it is very much on the agenda for the coming days and weeks.

Too much compromise, however, would be self-defeating.

Sunderland’s most aesthetically-pleasing football this season has also been their most effective.

Every team must earn the right to play but the Black Cats under Ross are at the best when controlling the ball for large periods, allowing their talented wide players to get high up the pitch.

This was lacking at Burton Albion, with Charlie Wyke struggling to hold the ball up and the pressure being instantly put back on his team.

Wyke’s injury only weakens Sunderland’s options when it comes to out-balls even further.

After his most attacking selection of the season backfired, it would be easy for Ross to change tack for the visit of Rochdale and beyond.

He has stressed on numerous occasions since taking the Sunderland job that for a manager to talk of philosophy is a dangerous game, and that he will be pragmatic when required.

That is to be commended and there is no doubting the financial environment makes promotion a necessity. However best to achieve that is the way Sunderland have to go.

After years of reactive football, however, Ross’s instinct to make swift substitutions and get his attacking players on the pitch whenever possible has been a breath of fresh air.

The frenetic tempo of League One has been a major culture shock for a club used to the lower tempo football of the top two tiers.

That is a journey that Ross, his team and his supporters are still very much beginning and there will plenty of adjustments required along the way.

But at this first bump in the road, Ross should trust his attacking instincts more than ever.

Not only will it help keep the feelgood factor on Wearside going, it stil looks to be the best way for this group of players to get results.