Sunderland aren’t in a terrible position in the Premier League table but improvements will be needed if they wish to have a less dramatic climax to their season this time out.
1. More goals
Sunderland are currently the second worst attacking side in the Premier League with 13 goals, just three more than Burnley and Aston Villa with ten apiece after 15 games.
This stat does not look like improving unless manager Gus Poyet can bring in some more quality than what is there currently. With possible exception of Conor Wickham and a couple of glimpses of solid finishing from Steven Fletcher, the Black Cats look dumbfounded in and around their opponents penalty area.
Jozy Altidore makes up the contingent of first team strikers while Danny Graham, on-loan at Wolves has only made five appearances in all competitions with just one goal. Not stats that indicate he will be making a return to a starting place on Wearside anytime soon.
Sunderland’s top scorer – Fletcher has just four goals and hasn’t scored in four league games and was benched against Liverpool in their recent 0-0 draw.
Poyet has a job on his hands to remedy their goalscoring ineptness but when quoted in The Daily Mail recently he reveals how he is frustrated with how difficult it can be to bring players to the north-east city.
“When you give certain types of players the option of going to London or the north-east in the same conditions, 99 from 100 will choose London and that’s the reality.
“We have to be a step ahead – we have to do things better than those clubs in the south or in other countries in a nice place with different weather.
“We need to do something that will convince them to come to the north. On top of that it is even more difficult in January because clubs don’t want to lose their best players, so everything needs to come together.”
2. Style of play
The style of play at the Stadium of Light, or at away games for that matter hasn’t been exactly easy on the eye. Last season, it was a similar story but one can argue Poyet had yet to stamp authority on his squad. Two transfer windows later and we’re left wondering what major differences have the signings which have come on board made?
Lee Catermole has been Sunderland’s most outstanding midfield player and this is just an example of why creatively the Black Cats haven’t looked so strong.
Catermole is fantastic at what he does, which is to break up play and protect his back four but the new signings around him such as Jack Rodwell and Jordi Gomez have only shown glimpses of what they can do. In saying this, Catermole is an important player for the Wearsiders.
The fact that he is so important though points to how much defending Sunderland are being forced to do and a new creative midfielder who can play through the middle is a must-have in January or the summer if the Black Cats wish to improve, not only results-wise but their style of play also.
3. Keep playing Adam Johnson
Having started the season on the fringes and often only playing minutes here and there, Johnson has come back into Poyet’s plans in a more frequent role, particularly on the right. He has yet to recapture the sort of form which made him stand out last term, scoring ten goals in all competitions but his talent is undeniable and he is one of few flair players at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland will need to improve in every area in reality if they’re to have a more relaxing end to the season than has been the case in the last number of years, but playing Johnson, who gives the Black Cats a creative outlet, will be crucial as we edge closer to the new year.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image John Davidson [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons