Wise Men Say: Simon Grayson needs another striker to lead the line for Sunderland

Sunderland fans at Barnsley. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland fans at Barnsley. Picture by Frank Reid
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For those fortunate enough to have not witnessed Sunderland’s 3-0 defeat at Barnsley, the scoreline does not deceive.

We were utterly dreadful.

Simon Grayson’s side put in a performance that would not have looked out of place during last season’s nosedive towards relegation.

All we appear to have done is exchange routine defeats at the hands of Crystal Palace and Swansea City for routine defeats at the hands of even smaller clubs, like Barnsley.

More than 4,000 of us made the relatively short trip to Oakwell and were served up a horror show.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but Sunderland’s long-suffering, die hard support really do deserve better than this.

We can take defeat, and I doubt many, if any of us, think we’re too good for the Championship, but to see a side with Premier League quality in its ranks perform with such little effort, enthusiasm organisation, pride or guile was particularly painful.

Based on this performance, Barnsley are not a good side.

That isn’t to say the scoreline flattered them – it didn’t – Sunderland were simply that bad that their opposition barely had to break sweat to win with ease.

For 20 minutes, Sunderland controlled the game, huffing and puffing, creating space out wide and looking for balls in behind the Tykes’ defence.

These forays forward, though energetic and at times promising, resulted in few chances.

Sunderland came closest to scoring when a dangerous ball played in from the right wing was deflected by a Barnsley defender, fortunately for him, directly into his goalkeeper’s arms.

The lack of a genuine goal threat was palpable.

After watching Sunderland show signs of promise using Simon Grayson’s 4-4-2 this season, it has become apparent that making room for two forwards who will be lucky to score more than 20 goals between them is simply not worth it.

Grayson needs another striker to lead the line, one who would allow James Vaughan to take up a spot on the bench and allow Lewis Grabban to move wide on the right in a tactical switch to 4-3-3.

The additional midfielder would help make Sunderland more robust – they were easily controlled by Barnsley for the most part – providing cover for woefully exposed, and woefully underperforming, full-backs Billy Jones and Bryan Oviedo.

Without reinforcements, this Sunderland squad will struggle to finish any higher than mid-table, and may end up closer to the bottom of the table than the top, as is currently the case.

There is not enough quality at Grayson’s disposal, and, crucially, there is also not enough depth.

Sunderland now have an international break to take stock, regroup and hopefully make important moves in the transfer market, both incomings and outgoings.

As things stand, it looks like a long, hard struggle ahead.

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes