It’s been a solid start by Sunderland to the 2020/21 season. The Black Cats are currently unbeaten in the league and progressing well in the EFL Trophy. Sunderland’s solid defence has helped keep five clean sheets with their goalkeeper Lee Burge also achieving something that no other keeper in the English professional game has so far this season.
Phil Parkinson’s men and their fans are desperate for the club to return to the Championship. With some small improvements to go with their solid defence, the Black Cats should be in the mix come the end of the season.
Sunderland’s Solid Defence the Key to Success
Unbeaten Start to the Season
Phil Parkinson and his team have started the season confidently. Four wins and two draws from their opening six league games sees the Black Cats sit fifth in the table with a game in hand on those above them.
Sunderland are already the only team in League One yet to suffer a defeat in the league so far this season. With the Black Cats looking solid in every game so far, there’s reason to believe that their impressive start could gather pace.
Best Defensive Record in the Country for Sunderland’s Solid Defence
Sunderland currently have the best defensive record in the country. Five clean sheets from six games has kept their unbeaten start intact. Parkinson’s men have been so solid that they have yet to concede a goal from open play in the league.
The only goal to be conceded came in the fourth minute of the first game against Bristol Rovers. The goal came via a penalty. Since then goalkeeper Lee Burge has been rarely troubled as his defence has stood firm. Burge, who became number one following the summer departure of Jon McLaughlin, has the honour of being the only keeper yet to concede a goal from open play in England’s top four divisions.
If Sunderland can keep up their impressive defensive displays, then they will be very hard to beat which should make them one of the favourites to achieve promotion.
Clean Sheets Are No Fluke
Phil Parkinson’s assistant Steve Parkin has advised that their recent run of clean sheets is no fluke. Speaking to safc.com, Parkin said:
“The key thing is that we have lots of defenders’ meetings and watch lots of videos on the opposition.
“We go through the defending we’ve had in the previous game and we also work on the training ground so the clean sheets don’t just happen, they come with a lot of hard work and dedication from the players and everybody at the club.
“It’s also not just down to the defenders and the goalkeeper, we start from the front.
“Our closing down in the last two games has been very good – it was good on Tuesday against a very technical team in Crewe, that’s the reason why we’ve been keeping clean sheets.
“We firmly believe in keeping clean sheets first and foremost, and we’ve got a group who really buy into that. You can’t win every game comfortably and sometimes it’s about seeing it through.”
Bailey Wright a key Signing
Bailey Wright had a spell on loan on Wearside last season; however, an injury and the cancellation of the season limited his game time. His time on the pitch did impress those that watched him, especially boss Phil Parkinson who made the defender a top transfer target during the summer.
Wright signed on a free transfer after his contract at Bristol City had expired and has been a rock at the heart of the Black Cats’ defence this season. The Australia international. who is the vice-captain at the club, has marshalled the defence expertly despite having several central defensive partners due to injury. Fans and Phil Parkinson will have everything crossed that Wright can be one of the few defenders at the club who can stay injury-free.
Player Versatility Has Been Important
Defensive injuries have given manager Phil Parkinson selection headaches in the opening weeks of the season. Despite this, the red and whites are still unbeaten. Summer arrivals Arbenit Xhemajli and Morgan Feeney are on the long-term injury list and both Jordan Willis and Tom Flanagan have suffered injuries. This has meant others having to help out in positions they may not be familiar with.
Midfielder turned full-back Luke O’Nien has filled in at centre back as has another full-back in Connor McLaughlin. Attack-minded players such as Lynden Gooch and Jack Diamond have also shown their versatility. This teamwork and togetherness should hold Sunderland in good stead for the remainder of the season.
Strikers Must Start Scoring on a Regular Basis
Only Charlie Wyke has hit the net this season with the opening goal in last weekends victory at Swindon Town. This was his first and only strike of the season so far despite his best efforts to claim the winner against Crewe Alexandra. Fellow strikers Will Grigg and Danny Graham have yet to score in the opening six games. Although wins are coming, the strikers must begin converting the chances being created for them. At present, only seven league goals have been scored.
Portsmouth Next to Test Sunderland’s Solid Defence
Next up at the Stadium of Light is old League One rivals Portsmouth. Pompey and the Black Cats have played several closely fought encounters in recent seasons. An EFL Trophy final and a play-off semi-final being two.
Sunderland are unbeaten in the last four home games against Portsmouth with this, and their recent form, giving them the confidence to make it five. Pompey have had an indifferent start to the season, winning three, drawing two and losing two.
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