Wise Men Say: Something isn't right at Sunderland - but it's hard to say what

Jack Ross was pleased with Sunderland’s performance after their 2-1 win over MK Dons on Saturday. And, for the most part, it’s not hard to see why.

Monday, 30th September 2019, 8:00 pm
Wise Men Say pen their latest Sunderland AFC column

After last weekend’s woeful showing at Bolton Wanderers, the Scot needed a solid week to curtail some of the negativity that surrounded the Stadium of Light.

Following the cup win over Sheffield United, he was halfway there. And during the opening 45 minutes on Saturday, it looked as though he was on course to masterminding the perfect response – something, to his credit, he has done consistently following disappointing results throughout most of his tenure.

But the second half on Saturday showed why so many still have concerns. Again, Sunderland’s intensity dropped. They allowed MK Dons back into the game, and as a result of a goal Ross labelled as “soft”, the home crowd started to get twitchy.

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The slick attacking movement shown during the first half was absent. His changes had little effect – Denver Hume, among others, having another afternoon to forget. And against a newly-promoted side who’d lost their last three heading into Saturday, Sunderland found themselves on the backfoot.

This isn’t all down to Ross, however. He deserves credit for staying calm, collected and rational while his career in the north east hangs in the balance. But there’s something still not quite right. Something is missing. Yet, it’s difficult to say what.

Maybe expectations are too high. A point made by Matt Wilson recently on the Wise Men Say Podcast was that as a club, and as a fanbase, we haven’t wrapped our head around being in League One.

Players in this league aren’t of the same ilk as those who have plied their trade at the Stadium of Light in recent years, no matter how bad they looked at the time.

They lack that final ounce of quality which puts them at their top of their game, consistently, for a full 90 minutes. I suppose they wouldn’t be in this league if that wasn’t the case.

But even taking that into consideration, is it wrong to expect a certain level of fluidity from one half to the next?

I don’t think so, and it may go some way in explaining why so many still want a new man at the helm, even with just one defeat to our name this season.

This isn’t a groundbreaking revelation, though. After Saturday, Ross revealed that he’s still not fully satisfied with certain parts of his side’s game. But is that a comment he’s made too often?

There’s no argument that the squad he has this season is weaker than that of 12 months ago. However, the greater concern is how Sunderland keep making the same errors.

I’ve no doubt Ross has it within him to make the improvements needed - and maybe he has on the training pitch.

But whether he can translate that across a full 90 minutes is the bigger question. And it’s a one that needs to be answered sooner rather than later.