This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Phil Parkinson seems to be taking a defensive approach with Sunderland and it is the most appropriate course of action to take if he is to win promotion.
The former Bolton boss has quickly grown used to the inconsistent performances of this Sunderland team, and has two wins and two defeats from his four League One matches so far.
Though still struggling away from home, he has already improved the defence slightly with three goals conceded in four league games, and two clean sheets out of two at home.
Southend manager Sol Campbell spoke of the importance of home form in mounting a promotion push, following their defeat against the Black Cats. Parkinson has already overseen an upturn in form in that department, and if he can continue to make shrewd decisions like playing Luke O’Nien at right midfield, then the Black Cats could be on course for success.
O’Nien provided the defensive qualities that are expected from a right-back on Saturday but crucially added the winning goal, and with George Dobson also showing signs of improvement there is reason for optimism from a defensive standpoint.
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Despite an underwhelming attack which resulted in too many draws last term, Sunderland were equally disappointing in defence.
They may have only let in 47 goals in 46 league games, but they conceded a goal in 33 of those matches, and if they repeat such a record this campaign they will fail to pick up the number of wins required for promotion.
That was a primary reason behind their failures last season, and it is little surprise that the two sides who kept the most clean sheets finished in the promotion places.
Parkinson is taking the right approach in order to achieve the club’s aim. It was how he built success at Bolton in the 2016/17 season, with his Trotters side conceding only 36 goals in the league as they finished in second.
Sunderland have an international goalkeeper in Jon McLaughlin, and recruited two centre-backs over the summer, so there is no reason why they don’t have the base for promotion success.
Should they do so, their away form will likely improve and considering they are yet to lose at home in 2019/20, that would put them in with a great chance of getting back into the Championship.