Jack Ross looks to improve his Sunderland formula on the training pitch and in the transfer market

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Jack Ross had been blunt in his post-match assessment on Saturday.

Another disappointing draw saw the Black Cats dip below the crucial two-points-per-game ratio.

After watching the game back twice, his thoughts had not changed much.

He felt he was overly harsh on the way his team played after going 1-0 up, but generally speaking he still saw it as one of their worst performances of the season.

With Barnsley and Charlton looming large in the table, Ross knows improvements are needed.

The Checkatrade Trophy quarter-final against Manchester City provides a welcome opportunity to get some positivity back; a win would leave Sunderland one victory from Wembley.

After that comes a critical period.

With no game for ten days, Ross can make critical adjustments to his squad, both on the training pitch and in the transfer market.

“I always look at things from my own perspective first,” Ross said.

“So everything we’re doing in my preparation, on the training pitch, what we’re asking them to do.

“Rather than pointing the blame at players it is important that I look at what I’m doing first.

“There’ll always come a point then that I hope players will assess what they’re doing and their own form.

“Sometimes I think it does just come down to dips in form, that can happen,” he added.

“It doesn’t make them not good players all of a sudden.

“We have had a little bit of a sticky patch where a lot of players who were in good form have had less productive periods at the same time.

“That then becomes a balancing act for me because it’s about when you remain faithful to those players and when you need to freshen it up.

“There’s a tipping point.

“My job is to make sure that these players keep trusting themselves.

“I trust the group, I think they are fairly honest and I think a few will be frustrated.”

That dip in form, particularly in attacking areas, has left Sunderland looking unconvincing.

They give up chances in the expectation that an open game will suit them.

That is something Ross is not eager to change and he believes that small improvements can make a big difference.

“I think it’s difficult to reverse,” he said.

“I’m not sure we’ve got enough personnel to play that way, either.

“But while we’re in that period where you’re not creating as much in the final third, you need to make sure you aren’t conceding.

“The thing that is frustrating for me on Saturday is that they had opportunities but not a lot of clear-cut ones.

“Even in that latter period, I think post-match I was a little caught up in it, that we were hanging on.

“We weren’t really, it’s just that we need to see it out.

“There’s little bits in the build-up to the goal that can be better. Sloppy clearances, bits of things where if we are neater and tidier, the whole game settles a bit.”

One option for Ross would be to freshen up his system, having relied on a 4-2-3-1 for a prolonged period.

“I always look at each game individually,” he said.

“Looking at what we’ve got and how we make it better.

“We’ve always tried to strengthen our squad so that we can play in different ways.

“I’ve mentioned before about knowing what players have brought us individually this season and it is the same with systems as well.

“The current system worked reasonably well for us for a period and worked well against other teams.

“Going into this break, it allows us as a staff to reflect on what is best for us going forward.

“That could be something different, it might be smaller changes within what we’re doing.”

January additions will also be vital and while Ross has made it clear that a striker is the absolute priority, he has also opened the door for further changes.

“You’re always looking to strengthen every area of the pitch,” he said.

“Again, on Saturday, not keeping a clean sheet, could I be overly critical of any individual player? Not really, it’s a really good goal.

“I think there’s just an overall recognition that we need to improve.

“Whether it be improving the quality of your squad or creating increased competition, I think you need to do it.

“I think I said at the beginning of the window, it’s about coming out stronger than you go in.

“There’s an impatience to sign players but you have to make sure they improve you. Otherwise it’s a pointless excercise and you end up with a squad that it quite bloated.”