It would appear that Lee Johnson’s Sunderland side are beginning to peak at just the right time.
It hasn’t been an easy ride for the former Bristol City manager but his team have now lost just once in their last nine league outings.
Despite their truly ridiculous list of injuries in the last few months, Johnson has engineered four straight wins in all competitions and as a result, they’re in the Papa John’s Trophy final and in the playoff positions.
What’s been most impressive about recent matches, however, is their defensive record.
Bailey Wright, Jordan Willis and Tom Flanagan are all missing but they’ve now kept two consecutive clean sheets with a patched-up defence.
Luke O’Nien and Dion Sanderson partnered each other once again in the club’s 2-0 win over Fleetwood this week, a match where there was little to complain about.
The centre-back pairing were both convincing but unfortunately, there were problems on the left-hand side again. Callum McFadzean was brought back into the team after missing the clash with Burton due to concussion protocols.
However, just like Jake Vokins has been in recent weeks, McFadzean was disappointing. The left-back consistently misplaced passes and lost the ball on a regular basis.
He was relatively untested in defensive scenarios but we’ve already had plenty of warning signs about the £2.4k-per-week earner’s performances in recent months.
The 27-year-old gave away a penalty in the 1-1 draw with Wimbledon back in December while he was arguably at fault for both strikes in their 2-1 defeat to Plymouth. On both occasions, the goals came down his side as he failed to get tight enough to his man.
McFadzean was largely anonymous on Tuesday night, though, winning just one of three ground duels he competed in. Not much came down his side but when he did get on the ball, it made for grim reading.
The defender completed only 70% of his passes – the worst tally of anyone to take the field for Sunderland. Furthermore, he lost possession of the ball on 23 occasions. Once again, that was the worst record for anyone in red and white.
When he got forward, he was also underwhelming, proving unsuccessful with all three of his crosses. No wonder he lost the ball so regularly.
Depending on the formation Johnson wants to play, McFadzean has to be dropped for good. If a three-back is in operation, then surely the lively loanee Jordan Jones is a good bet to come in.