Charlie Wyke is becoming one of the first names on Sunderland's teamsheet - and rightfully so
Strikers will be judged on goals. They always have been, and always will be.
In that regard, Charlie Wyke’s Sunderland career so far has been a relative disappointment.
He has netted just ten times for the Black Cats since joining the club for a substantial fee from Bradford City – although in mitigation, much of his opening season was affected by injury.
But under Phil Parkinson, Wyke looks to gained a new lease of life.
Admittedly, the goals are yet to flow for the 27-year-old, but his contribution to the vastly-improved performances of late cannot be ignored.
Indeed, the striker is quickly becoming one of the first names on the teamsheet and an integral part of Parkinson’s 3-4-3 system which places a great deal of emphasis on the number nine.
In this system, the central striker is not expected to contribute the bulk of goals to the team, but instead act as a focal point – someone whose aerial ability and physical presence can present opportunities to those around him, with Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire the beneficiaries for Sunderland.
A cursory look at the stats would show that Wyke has provided no assists since Parkinson took the reigns at the Stadium of Light, but you need only watch the goals back to see his impact.
More often than not, Wyke is dropping deep to start the moves that result in goals, rather than applying one of the final touches. His heatmaps only serve to emphasise this fact, with the striker dropping far deeper in recent weeks in order to receive possession. He’s having more touches on the ball, too, averaging 61.2 per game under Parkinson compared to 49.9 under his predecessor Jack Ross.
Now many supporters, quite rightfully, feel their number nine should be doing his work in the penalty area. That’s a fair point and one which in the long-term will have to change, for Sunderland cannot be reliant on Gooch and Maguire contributing the bulk of their goals in the long-term.
But in the short-term, the formula is working.
So goals or no goals, supporters ought to stick by Sunderland’s number nine.