This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Sunderland have continued to struggle despite a managerial change, and a cause for their lack of form could be a lack of versatility in the squad.
Jack Ross achieved some level of success with the Black Cats last year and for the majority of his tenure he operated with a 4-2-3-1 formation.
As a result of that, he brought in players which suited the system he had in place, and that has left Phil Parkinson in a difficult situation, as there are a lack of alternatives he can use to try and turn around his team’s form.
The squad contains just three senior strikers – one of whom is currently injured – and that means the prospect of playing two up-front is problematic, as there are a lack of options on the bench to take their place.
That affects the type of impact substitutes can have on a game, as well as making Sunderland too predictable, and with that they become more easy to contain and easier to beat.
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Parkinson has proved that he knows what it takes to win promotion from League One, but he needs to bring in his own players. In order to do that he has to receive the financial support and backing from owner Stewart Donald, who showed he was willing to back previous boss Jack Ross when the Mackems spent £4m on Will Grigg earlier in 2019.
At Bolton he made astute purchases such as Filipe Morais and Mark Beevers, both on a free, with the latter contributing to a defence which conceded just 36 league goals. It was an achievement which saw him included in the League One Team of the Year 2016/17.
If he could do the same in January he would be able to address the lack of options he has in his squad, and bring in another striker to assist those already at the club, and reduce the pressure that exists on Will Grigg to score goals.
With strength in depth he would be able to mix things up and alter his style depending on the dangers posed by the opponent, which would provide a solid platform to win games.
A crucial aspect Sunderland are lacking in is their ability to change things and add that little bit extra. That’s why they’ve had so many draws during their stint in the third tier, and is part of the reason why they won’t get promoted if things remain the same.