This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Chris Maguire was dropped for the fixture against Burton last week and although the change didn’t end Sunderland’s winless run, it is a decision Phil Parkinson must stick by.
Sunderland have struggled going forward this season but looked bright in spells against the Brewers on Tuesday, and would have added to their sole goal but for some good goalkeeping.
That was without Maguire, who on his day can be one of Sunderland’s better players, but he displays his talent too infrequently and that often comes as a detriment to the rest of the team.
Fans have accused him of being selfish and playing for himself, and when Will Grigg has been misfiring up-front that simply can’t continue.
It is Maguire’s job, as the attacking midfielder, to provide for the striker, and until the Northern Ireland international receives the required service his goal drought is likely to continue.
If Parkinson can teach his team to play with more teamwork and understanding – with Maguire acting as an impact sub – then that could be best for all parties, and finally, lead to an improvement in the attack.
Without Maguire in the side Parkinson has a variety of options available to him, and an ability to experiment should allow him to find the desired approach.
The versatile Luke O’Nien has played in several positions this term but he looked comfortable deputising for Maguire against Burton, and twice came close to scoring for the Black Cats.
His hunger allows him to take up promising positions, and that is what the 30-year-old lacks. If O’Nien can add a bit more quality and develop a partnership with Grigg then Sunderland will carry a greater threat, and that could mean they score two or more in matches more often.
So far they have managed that feat just once under Parkinson – against Tranmere – but without Maguire, there is potential for a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 system to be played, with more ambition and freedom going forward on display.
That could at least get fans on their feet to back the players, and any confidence boost would be of great help currently, so it is an option the manager should give serious consideration to.
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