Why Jack Ross can't be branded as 'negative' after Sunderland's win over Portsmouth

There is a myth among football fans that only by playing two strikers can a team be classed as ‘attacking’.

Sunday, 18th August 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 18th August 2019, 5:45 pm

Anything else, therefore, is struck off as negative, unambitious or unimaginative.

And there were such accusations levied at Jack Ross when he ditched the 4-4-2 shape he had used at Accrington in favour of the - arguably more conservative - 4-2-3-1 against Portsmouth.

But as Ross himself attested to during the week, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to tactics.

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Jack Ross has silenced his 'negative' Sunderland critics

There was always going to be a response to the change in shape but hopefully, by the end of 90 minutes, fans realised it made the Black Cats no less attacking.

While they were pinned back for parts of the first half - which was inevitable against a Portsmouth side which such attacking talent in their ranks - when Sunderland attacked, they attacked in numbers.

While Marc McNulty was the only recognised striker on the pitch, he was never left isolated. He had support aplenty from Chris Maguire, who once again flourished in the hole behind the frontman.

And they weren’t alone - throughout the first half, Ross was cajoling Lynden Gooch to push higher up the right flank while Aiden McGeady was his usual, direct self.

One main criticism of Ross last season was his desire to sit back and protect leads rather than push on and extend them - especially at home.

While sometimes that is a sensible ploy, especially towards the end of the season where every point is crucial, it can naturally be frustrating for fans.

There could be no such frustrations against Portsmouth, though.

Indeed, Sunderland carved out some of the better chances after the interval and refused to merely defend for 45 minutes.

Charlie Wyke picked up where Marc McNulty left off, pressing high and forcing mistakes.

Was this a perfect attacking performance from the Black Cats? No – there are elements of Sunderland’s forward play, particularly when it comes to decision-making in the final third, that needs improvement.

But this was a good base to build from, and should help dispel any myths surrounding Jack Ross’ ‘negativity’