Sunderland boss outlines the key challenge his players must overcome against Charlton Athletic

Lee Johnson admits Charlton Athletic's managerial change will provide a stern test for his Sunderland players on Saturday afternoon.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 5:00 pm

A 3-1 defeat to Accrington Stanley proved to be Nigel Adkins' last in charge at The Valley, leaving the Addicks languishing in the League One relegation zone.

Johnnie Jackson has been named as the club's interim manager, with owner Thomas Sandgaard saying he will be given the opportunity to earn the job on a full-time basis.

Jackson was assistant to Adkins and also worked alongside Lee Bowyer when Charlton beat Sunderland to promotion in the 2018/19 season.

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Sunderland boss Lee Johnson

Johnson's pre-match analysis of the opposition, aided by his coaching staff and analysis team (including former Bristol City colleague Luke Coles) is extensive but the head coach admits on this occasion the impact will be more limited than usual.

He says his players will have to prepared to quickly adjust to any unforseen challenges that emerge in the early stages of the game.

"I think your first thought always goes out to the manager," Johnson said, reflecting on Adkins' departure.

"I've been in that situation and it's always difficult.

"We've seen their last few games and the last game in particular, I think they'll probably be disappointed with what they've put in for their manager.

"Nigel is an experienced, strong-willed individual, a great character in thegame and I know he'll bounce back extremely quickly.

"At the same time, it was a really good opportunity and still is because Charlton is actually a really, really good club and it looks positive with the new ownership.

"For whatever reason, it hasn't quite clicked.

"It's definitely a tough game for both teams," he added.

"The dynamic changes for us because there's nothing historic to go off, other than the historic performances of the players.

"Tactically we don't know what they'll be able to implement within that day or couple of days worth of training.

"That will be interesting and it's a good test for the players, to show that tactical agility and mentally work out and adjust to what the players are doing pretty quickly."

Johnson pointed to the recent game against Crewe Alexandra as a perfect example.

The hosts switched to a five-man defence for the game, and their pressing initially caused Sunderland problems before they took control in the 20 minutes before half time.

Johnson says that tactical flexibility is something he is looking to implement over a period of time as his squad settle into the club's new footballing philosophy.

"It is hour and hours that you put into the analysis, on every area of the opposition's game," he said.

"I think across clubs people would be impressed if they saw the extent of what goes into it.

"What we're trying to teach here is for the players to show that tactical agility.

"Crewe was a good example where they sort of caught us out in the first fifteen minutes with their change of shape, until we managed to get the message on to counteract it in a positive way.

"It definitely can cause you problems when the opposition do something you're not expecting."

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