Defensive stability, cutting out the draws and Will Grigg: The SEVEN key priorities for Sunderland's new manager
Sunderland’s new manager will be inheriting a squad packed with talent – but that doesn’t mean they won’t have some issues to contend with upon their arrival.
And with the pressure on the Black Cats to achieve promotion from League One this term, the pressure will be on the new man in the dugout to deliver some quick success.
But what will their priorities be in the short-term?
Here, we take a look at SEVEN areas where the new Sunderland chief will have to act – and rapidly:
FIND A DEFENSIVE SOLUTION
Arguably one of Sunderland’s biggest flaws over the last 18 months has been their lack of defensive solidity.
The Black Cats have kept just one clean sheet this season, which came in the Carabao Cup, and the early weeks of the campaign have been plagued with some glaring errors at the back.
Injuries haven’t helped matters, with Jack Ross having to rotate his back four at times, but Sunderland’s new boss must figure out which system and personnel will allow the Wearsiders to obtain some more defensive solidity.
A return to three at the back - which was trialled unsuccessfully at the start of the term - could be on the cards, as Sunderland eye a maiden league clean sheets.
WIN - AND STAMP OUT THE DRAWS
That said, fans would undoubtedly sacrifice clean sheets in the short-term for a run of consistent form that pushes the side up the table.
It sounds simple, but winning - and cutting out the stalemates - must be the priority in the short-term.
With a quarter of the season already gone, there is plenty of time for the Black Cats to close the gap that separates them from league leaders Ipswich Town.
But the new manager will need to get Sunderland winning quickly. Promotion this season is practically a necessity, and the new man will be under no illusions as to the pressure and scrutiny he will be faced with from day one.
Results, therefore, must be the priority. By hook or by crook, the Black Cats need to get some results on the board and ensure they remain in and around the automatic promotion picture - especially given the two games in hand the side currently hold.
For now, performances can wait. Results are the key thing and the new manager must stamp out the draws.
GET WILL GRIGG FIRING
Sunderland splashed out a seven-figure sum on Will Grigg in January, but he is currently without a league goal since January.
That said though, the striker hasn’t become a bad player overnight. Grigg’s ability in the third tier is well-known and, if Sunderland’s new manager can get him firing, then the Black Cats will have a real asset on their hands.
Whether it be tactical tweaks or finding a different combination of personnel, the new man in the dugout must find out how to unleash Grigg’s ability in front of goal.
GET THE MOST OUT OF DUNCAN WATMORE
The pacy attacker could be a key player in the third tier - as shown during his handful of appearances last season.
But with injuries having stalled his progress over recent years, Watmore must be managed carefully. Whether psychologically or physically, the winger has to nurtured through the remainder of the campaign so he can make his mark.
In the short-term, Watmore could prove a dynamic new outlet for the Black Cats as they look to improve their attacking arsenal, but caution must be urged.
The forward has been rushed back before, and the same mistake cannot be made again.
ESTABLISH THEIR PRIORITIESSunderland remain active in all four competitions, with a run to the last 16 of the Carabao Cup coinciding with the start of the club’s leasing.com Trophy campaign.
But with the first round of the FA Cup on the horizon, and a League One clash with in-form Fleetwood to be rearranged, something has to give.
Sunderland’s priority this season is quite simply to win promotion - and it may well be that the new manager sacrifices progression in the cup competitions in order to focus on the third tier.
With the financial incentives minimal, in the grand scheme of things, it would be far from a disaster if Sunderland’s new boss opts to neglect their upcoming cup ties.MAKE A KEY CAPTAINCY DECISIONThis could be a straight-forward decision for Ross’ successor.
Grant Leadbitter is the Black Cats’ current captain and in many ways is an ideal fit for the role. He knows what it means to play for the club and has led by example both on and off the field this season.
But new managers often have their own ideas for the captaincy, and it could be that whoever takes the Stadium of Light hotseat feels a change is needed.
It’s important, though, that any decision on this front is made quickly. Constant switches of the armband won’t prove fruitful.
GET THE FANBASE ON SIDE
Again, this may sound straightforward - but this will be vital.
Sunderland’s supporters can be their biggest weapon in the battle for promotion. Their numbers and noise are unrivalled both at home and on the road and, if that passion is harnessed correctly, they could prove the driving force on a rise up the table.