Much of Sunderland’s success in recent weeks has been built on their defensive organisation, but there are also signs of progress in attack.
Phil Parkinson’s promotion from League One with Bolton largely came about due to a record of 36 goals conceded in 46 league games, and his expertise has also proved effective in the north-east.
Five goals conceded in the 10 games before the visit of Rochdale explains why the Black Cats have just one defeat in that time, though goals have occasionally proved elusive in trying to turn draws into wins.
Prior to Rochdale’s visit, Chris Maguire had scored five and assisted three goals in nine matches, but aside from him Sunderland have lacked a key attacking outlet, with the exception of Lynden Gooch, who has made four goal contributions since Christmas (prior to last night).
A lack of attacking guile was shown last weekend against Ipswich, with the Black Cats struggling for a breakthrough until Parkinson decided to pair Kyle Lafferty up-front with Charlie Wyke. The change in tactics and personnel paid off as Maguire found the winner, and assistant manager Steve Parkin thinks it is a strategy which could have success again in the future.
As reported by The Northern Echo, Parkin said: “Charlie’s [Wyke] got football intelligence and he’s good at bringing people into play, we saw that at the weekend. Kyle [Lafferty] has also got good touch, but he’s a runner as well. He can run down the side of people, and I think the pair of them together could be a threat, I really do.
Would Sunderland have gone up under Jack Ross?
“He’s a proper character, and I mean that in a nice way. He seems a smashing fella, and he really does want to do well here. I think he’s sensible enough to know that he’s had to be patient because of the run we’ve been on, but I think he’s also known that his time will come.”
The Northern Ireland international has struggled a little in the few substitute appearances he has made since joining, but his presence against Ipswich certainly made a difference.
Lafferty is yet to score or even make a key pass but alongside Wyke he provided a big target for his teammates on Saturday, capable of holding the ball at his feet as well as winning it in the air, evidenced by his three aerial duels won against both Portsmouth and MK Dons in recent matches.
Wyke, by comparison, has won four aerial duels per league game this term, as per WhoScored, and the pair of them playing together should give most defences plenty of food for thought.
If Sunderland play to their strengths and get crosses into the box, then they could be a success if they started up front together, though whether Parkinson is prepared to surrender some defensive solidity in order to accommodate that remains to be seen.
If not, Lafferty still presents a viable Plan B option and his ability to cause havoc could allow him to score or his teammates, as Maguire’s goal against the Tractor Boys proved.
Do you agree that Lafferty and Wyke could be effective together Sunderland fans? Or is their lack of goals a concern? Air your view in the comments below…
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