Few would have expected to see Sunderland as one of the teams fighting for their Premier League lives this season. The club sit in 17th place on 13 points, just one point in front of Southampton who have rapidly improved in recent matches. Sunderland need to match those improvements.
The problem for Sunderland seems to be scoring goals because defensively they have only conceded 18 which is nothing compare to some of the teams around them; QPR 27, Reading 27, Southampton 32, Wigan 28, Aston Villa 23. If they can find a system and a formation which allows them to cash in with goals then they should shoot up the table because their defence is solid.
A good starting point is finding a way to turn their home form around. They have a record of one win, three draws and two defeats at the Stadium of Light this season. Playing at home gives a side a natural advantage before a match has even started and Sunderland need to utilise this by giving into their attacking urges and making the most of their brilliant wide players; Seb Larsson and Adam Johnson.
Four out of Sunderland’s last six Premier League matches have seen them miss out on a point or points by one goal. Therefore, the emphasis in training and away from the field needs to switch. It’s a single goal which could be the difference for the club at the moment so they need to find the weakness in their opposition and play with immense discipline to exploit it.
Injuries have troubled Sunderland with the likes of Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher all out of action. However, Martin O’Neill needs to keep his side as fresh as possible which means rotating as frequently as he can and when he needs to. Playing the same set of players will lead to fatigue so he has to start blending one or two new players into the side quickly.
The effect this has will be seen later into matches when O’Neill can bring quality players off of the bench in the final third of games to solidify the side of they are in front or to inject a little bit of pace and action into the team if they are chasing a game. This is a subtle change and one that O’Neill will be aware of but it’s difficult while the side have so many key players missing.
The discipline of the side has been good with Craig Gardner the most booked Sunderland player with five yellow cards. This means the side can afford to be a little more aggressive and this will follow when Cattermole is back in the starting team and tearing up the midfield like a maniac. Sunderland need to make their presence known early on because this will put the opposition on the back foot, especially when they’re playing at home.
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