Sunderland Must Make Changes if They Are to End Season on a High

Sunderland must make changes

Lee Johnson’s side have recently gone from automatic promotion contenders to play-off hopefuls. Two points from the last five games have seen the Black Cats go from battling with Hull City and Peterborough United for automatic promotion to hoping they have done enough to stay in the play-off positions. Sunderland must make changes now to stop the rot and take some momentum into the semi-finals of the League One play-offs. 

Sunderland Must Make Changes to Halt Current Poor Form

Black Cats Must be Ruthless 

During the past few games Sunderland have taken the lead, but their current inability to keep a clean sheet has meant a ruthless streak in front of goal has been needed. Unfortunately, when the Black Cats have got themselves into a good position, they have a tendency to relax. 

Against Accrington Stanley on Saturday, striker Charlie Wyke took his goal tally for the season to 30. His brace put Sunderland two goals ahead after just 11 minutes. Like other teams across the country who are also battling, the Black Cats had a great chance to show their ruthless side and put the result beyond doubt by half-time. They failed to do this, allowed the opposition to get back into the game and the end result was 3-3. 

Other games have been very similar in recent weeks. Lee Johnson’s men have taken the lead, only to either draw or be defeated. 

Sunderland have gone from a team that were tough to beat and could hang onto a lead, to a team full of mistakes with little confidence. This at a time in the season when they cannot afford to be on a poor run of form. 

Central Defence Needs Changing 

Sunderland are leaking goals. From being stubborn in defence, they have gone to being easy to breakthrough. Dion Sanderson’s injury has not helped; however, the experienced Bailey Wright has returned from a spell on the treatment table. 

Alongside Wright and Sanderson before him has been fan favourite Luke O’Nien. 

The former Wycombe Wanderers man is a central midfielder by trade, but has spent the majority of time on Wearside at right-back. Sunderland’s long list of injuries at centre back forced O’Nien into the middle of the defence. 

O’Nien is a player who will give 100% in any position he is asked to play and has excelled in central defence for many games. Unfortunately of late, his inexperience at centre-back has seen him make several errors leading to goals. A return to right-back would be beneficial to the player, and a player whose natural position is as a central defender being brought in, even if it someone from the U23 squad. 

That player could be 21-year-old Oliver Younger missed Monday’s U23 victory ahead of potential involvement with the first-team as they take on Blackpool at the Stadium of Light. A game, which following recent results is a must-win game.

Bring Back Chris Maguire 

Fans’ favourite Chris Maguire, who some fans christened “the king”, has been only a bit-part player since Lee Johnson’s arrival. Maguire is a forward who can create and score out of nothing. However, with Johnson having several options in Maguire’s position, game time has been hard to come by.

With the Black Cats leaking goals at present, outscoring the opposition may be the way forward. If so, Maguire has the know-how to unlock a defence and score from almost any angle. With the season coming to a close and the play-offs looming, a player such as Maguire who can offer inspiration in the final third could be invaluable.

Goalkeeper Lee Burge Needs Confidence From Somewhere 

Current number one Lee Burge is having a tough time in goal. Goals are being conceded and mistakes are being made, not just by those in front of him but by the man himself. When a goalkeeper makes a mistake, goals are usually the outcome and Burge is experiencing a spell where if it can go wrong, it will.

Back-up keeper Remi Matthews has failed to convince when called up, with some fans calling for U23 ‘keeper Anthony Patterson to be given a start. At such a crucial stage of the season currently in play, it is unlikely that Lee Johnson will want to start a youngster in goal at a time when confidence in defence is delicate.

Lee Burge, therefore, is likely to keep his place for the foreseeable future. Confidence is key for the shot-stopper and he must find it from somewhere fast. At crucial times like this, Burge needs his defence to be watertight.

Sunderland Must Make Changes and They Must Toughen Up 

Following Saturday’s disappointing draw at home to Accrington Stanley, Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson echoed the comments made by many fans. Sunderland must toughen up and become ruthless. Johnson said“We need to toughen up in certain situations. We didn’t put them to the sword, with all the chances we had.

“We lost too many individual duels, technically and physically, and they threw caution to the wind in terms of their direct play and their running power from their front four. That was our problem, along with big individual errors as well.”

Main Photo
Embed from Getty Images