Key talking points from Sunderland's friendly defeat to Heerenveen

It doesn't feel like two minutes since Sunderland's agonising League One play-off final defeat to Charlton Athletic.

By Richard Mennear
Sunday, 28 July, 2019, 13:10
Dylan McGeouch battles for the ball against Heerenveen.

Yet, the new season is now just six days away with the Black Cats targeting automatic promotion this time round.

Here we assess some of the main talking points from the 1-0 friendly defeat to Heerenveen as the clock ticks down to the new campaign.

Lack of goals a concern

Jack Ross was relaxed post-match when quizzed on the lack of goals.

However, it must be a concern. They haven't scored in three games despite a focused effort on getting more bodies further up the pitch to support Will Grigg.

Grigg gets stick but the service to him on Saturday was poor.

Marc McNulty looked bright when he came on, providing much-needed support. Benji Kimpioka is an interesting prospect but very raw and his decision making needs to improve.

Defence looks sorted, rest of the places up for grabs

Sunderland look set to start the season with the favoured 3-4-3 system and the defence is looking settled. Jordan Willis and Conor McLaughlin both impressed against the Dutch outfit. Tom Flanagan making up the back three.

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Denver Hume will start the season at left wing-back and shows promise, with Lynden Gooch the likely contender at right wing-back, though he needs to show improvement.

Behind the defence, Jon McLaughlin. The rest of the side, however, is up for grabs.

Ross has a large squad with plenty of options, especially in central midfield. Up top too there are good options, Grigg started with support from Kimpioka and the impressive Elliot Embleton, who has taken his chance this pre-season.

Other attacking options - when all fit - include McNulty, Duncan Watmore, Charlie Wyke, Chris Maguire and Aiden McGeady.

Ross faces midfield conundrum

Grant Leadbitter and Dylan McGeouch got the nod against Heerenveen.

Are they too similar though? Can Sunderland play those two in front of a back three at home? Is it too defensive?

Getting that central midfield right will prove key to promotion hopes. George Dobson looked an exciting prospect when he came on as sub.