Sunderland’s transfer window seems to be going from bad to worse. What was already a weak defence seems to be only getting weaker.
Lamine Kone clearly doesn’t want to stick around and Younes Kaboul surprised all with his move to Watford. The centre-back pairing were part of the reason Sunderland performed so well against Man City.
David Moyes’ men delivered an uplifting performance against Man City and were unlucky to lose. But what did they learn from their City display?
Teamwork is everything
If the Black Cats are to get anything against Middlesbrough then they must perform as a unit. They have placed a huge emphasis on teamwork in the run up to the season and that is even more important now their squad is weakening with outgoings and injuries.
Each player must play their part tomorrow and do everything they can to keep Boro out, and everything they can to work the ball into the net. Kone and Kaboul are going to be a huge miss to the defence, particularly Kaboul as he was the talker for his partner, Patrick van Aanholt and Donald Love, and before him, DeAndre Yedlin.
The midfield must help the defence out, the centre pairing is likely to be John O’Shea and Papy Djilobodji. And whilst O’Shea brings experience, he’s also slow in his old age and the midfield must be able to cover him.
However, the only problem is, Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole and Yann M’Vila, Sunderland’s most influential defensive midfielders of last season won’t be on the pitch tomorrow. O’Shea was forced into the holding midfield role against City and performed well but now he is needed in defence.
Rodwell's time to shine
Jack Rodwell must live up to his price tag and repay the faith that Moyes has placed in him tomorrow. The midfielder has failed to impress thus far but did fare badly against City and must turn his competence performance into a run of good form if he is to resurrect his Sunderland career. He bagged an assist with a clever through ball against Pep Guardiola’s men and he must continue such form, there is no better place to start than against Boro.
Attack, attack, attack, attack, attack
It’s often said that the best form of defence is attack and at the minute, that is Sunderland’s strongest area. It was clear against City if anyone was going to score, it was Jermain Defoe. Low and behold the 33-year-old came through and struck level for the Wearsiders.
Sunderland must give Defoe the service he needs tomorrow, if he is given half a chance, he will score. Gooch performed brilliantly against City and if he gets the nod again tomorrow he must replicate that performance. It’s a lot to ask for such a young player but at the minute, he’s all Sunderland’s got and not a bad option at that.
Adnan Januzaj and Wahbi Khazri were substituted on late on at the Etihad and they’re two of Sunderland’s most attacking players. They both gave Sunderland a little something going forward, particularly Khazri’s clever set pieces. However, hopefully Sunderland have learnt that Januzaj is not a corner take after his poor attempts on his debut. Januzaj is also a player that must be on the box, trying to get on the end of a corner, not the player whipping them in.
Paddy McNair’s own goal was unfortunate and unlucky but Sunderland cannot afford such clumsiness tomorrow. They must hit the ground running from the off this season otherwise it’s going be very long year. McNair will be keen to make for his mistake and he can make amends tomorrow.
The Sunderland squad clearly needs a lot of work but at City we saw that under Moyes, so as long as they play as a unit they can deliver. They must prove that tomorrow.