Wise Men Say: Sunderland missed a huge opportunity against Oxford and the new system must go!

Our old friend 1-1. Hello again.

Monday, 5th August 2019, 12:07 pm

Sunderland laboured to a draw against Oxford on Saturday, in a performance that did little to suggest that lessons from last season have been learned.

Faces have changed, formations have changed, but several key things have remained the same.

Jack Ross deployed wing-backs in a formation that saw three central defenders, including new signings Jordan Willis and Conor McLaughlin, play alongside the sole outfield survivor from the starting eleven in the Play Off Final, Tom Flanagan.

Will Grigg competes for the ball against Oxford United at the Stadium of Light.

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Denver Hume and Lynden Gooch were the wing backs, as Dylan McGeouch and George Dobson started in midfield, while Will Grigg started, and continued to struggle, up front.

It was a disjointed performance from start to finish from Sunderland, and one that left me confused as to what we were actually trying to achieve.

The wing-back situation, we simply do not have the players to set the team up in this shape. Denver Hume has gone from third choice left back, to first choice – and only, left wing-back.

Wise Men Say

Lynden Gooch, for all his effort and hard work, is not a wing-back. He actually played well against Oxford, but this was despite playing at wing-back, not because of it.

Hume really struggled, positionally and going forward, wasting several good crossing opportunities and a reinforcement in this area is absolutely imperative. It would be stupid, and unfair on Hume at this stage of his career to have him as the only option.

The wing-backs weren’t the only issue as the whole back five, possibly six with the goalkeeper, looked shaky. Willis had an average debut with his passing questionable on more than one occasion, while Flanagan simply isn’t strong enough as a central defender.

Yesterday in my opinion has created a big problem for the manager. By playing this way he has opened himself up for criticism, as it was evident to most in the Stadium of Light that this was the wrong system.

We’ve had the entire pre-season to develop the best system moving forward, and I find it staggering that Jack Ross, with the players available to him, has decided this is the best one.

The pre-season itself was quite strange, and it appears we are short on match practice, as there were too many individual performances on show. Everything about it is quite bizarre. It leaves you already with the question of “where do we go from here?”

This formation unless we bring in specialist wing-backs has to be ditched. An extreme thing to do after one game? Not for me. It simply does not, and will not work for us.

We also need some drive in midfield, Elliott Embleton was absolutely anonymous and for me has to come out of the side, possibly Chris Maguire or Aiden McGeady can come in from the start next week.

Hopefully the soon to return Max Power can bring the form he showed at the beginning and end of the last campaign, and add some impetus to the midfield.

So this is all nice and positive isn’t it? One game in and I’m suggesting we rip it up and start again. That formation has to go, and there are players that have to come out of the side.

There won’t be much grace afforded to the manager this season, as we have to get out of this league, and with Ipswich and Portsmouth the next two games you can’t help but feel yesterday was a huge missed opportunity to bring some good feeling back around the place.

I think we have the players to go to Portman Road and win, but we have to use them properly – Saturday’s game was a prime example of how not to do so.