After just one league win so far this season, Sunderland find themselves in the Championship relegation zone. There have been several performances so far that can be described as poor at best, although two draws in two games has been an improvement. The Black Cats are in need of victories and Sunderland manager Simon Grayson must consider the options available to him.
Six Options for Sunderland Manager Simon Grayson to Consider
Start Jonny Williams
Simon Grayson has stated that Williams did not start against Queens Park Rangers because he wanted to play two up front. However, when the Welsh midfielder came on, he added some much needed creativity and flair to the middle of the park. Grayson has stuck with Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong in the centre of midfield; however, as the two are similar types of players and aren’t as creative as Williams, maybe now is the time to drop one and bring in Williams who can create chances. With Sunderland’s defence looking like it could concede at any time, a player who can create and score at the other end could be what the Black Cats require.
Drop Jason Steele
Since his arrival from Blackburn Rovers in the summer, goalkeeper Steele has as yet been unable to convince fans he is the man to be number one. His decision making and command of his box has been adequate at best. His shot stopping, although sometimes good still leaves his defence with problems as more often than not he will push the ball back into dangerous areas instead of away from the goal. Steele’s rival for the number one position, Robin Ruiter who although is far from faultless has looked the better of the two. Maybe now is time for the Dutchman to have an extended run in the side and take the nervy Steele out of the firing line.
Play recognised central defenders
Injuries and illness made Simon Grayson make changes in central defence last Saturday. However, instead of bringing in another central defender, he moved right back Billy Jones into central defence. Jones has played there previously and has not looked comfortable. A recognised central defender even in the shape of one of the Under 23’s would have been a better option. Tom Beadling, who is young, strong and has impressed for several seasons during his rise through the academy could have been ideal. Playing alongside the experienced John O’Shea could do him wonders.
In 1997 when Sunderland’s began to struggle with form and injuries under Peter Reid, one of the things he did amongst others was change his defence. He brought in young, hungry and talented players such as Darren Williams, Jody Craddock and Darren Holloway. The move payed off and the Black Cats shot up the table. Too much is said about young players not having the experience to play at certain levels. To gain that experience they have to play.
Drop Lee Cattermole and/or Didier Ndong
Lee Cattermole has been a fan favourite for much of his time at the Stadium of Light. His never say die attitude, commitment in the tackle and to the cause, influence and desire endeared him to fans. Injuries may now have taken their toll on the midfielder. This season he has not looked the same player during many games.
Record signing Didier Ndong is again another who has not found his form in the Championship. His partnership with Cattermole so far has not clicked and maybe now is the time that one or even both are replaced. Both are similar players but NDong has age, energy and a more dynamic style of play on his side.
A partnership of Northern Ireland international Paddy McNair and Jonny Williams when both are fully fit could be the answer. Both Cattermole and Ndong will could have big roles to play this season but with the Black Cats sitting in the relegation places, something has to change.
Start with Lewis Grabban
Forward James Vaughan has yet to prove that he can score goals for Sunderland in this league. Although his effort can not be faulted he has just the one goal so far this season. He is a striker that thrives on crosses and as yet Grayson has yet to find a formula that fits Vaughan’s style. Grabban, even though he has missed several games through injury has scored more and is the more versatile striker of the two. With the opposition seemingly able to adapt to Vaughan easier, Grabban could prove a more difficult opponent for defences.
Get the basics right
This may seem obvious, but too many times this season Sunderland have failed to get the basics right during a game. Poor passing, not watching the game, not making moves to give teammates an option for example have all been issues which have led to goals been conceded, missed opportunities and possession lost. Players make mistakes; however, these basic mistakes are seen too many times. Get the basics right and the team will stand a much better chance of winning football matches.
Next up for the Black Cats is a trip to Brentford. The Bees themselves have not been in the best of form so for this season, winning two games from 12 matches. Sunderland, their under pressure manager and their long suffering supporters will be desperate to kick start their season with their second win of the season. No matter how it comes about.
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND – AUGUST 04: Sunderland manager Simon Grayson during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sunderland and Derby County at Stadium of Light on August 4, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images)