Alex Neil will be hoping to extend his current unbeaten run in charge of Sunderland to five games as his side host Crewe Alexandra this afternoon.
The Black Cats beat Fleetwood 3-1 in their last outing at the Stadium of Light and can now make it back-to-back wins on their own turf today.
If results go their way, Sunderland can move up to fourth in the table and above Oxford with a win, whilst also potentially moving to within six points off the automatic promotion places.
One change that Neil must make to his starting XI for this match is the removal of Patrick Roberts from the line-up after the 25-year-old’s disappointing performance last time out.
Former Black Cats boss Lee Johnson dubbed the winger an “amazing coup” upon his arrival at the Stadium of Light in January, but he is yet to prove the since-sacked manager right.
Neil offered Roberts a huge opportunity to showcase his quality against Fleetwood and he spurned that chance with a worrying display. He lined up on the right of the front three and failed to show that he deserves to retain his place in the team.
The ex-Manchester City winger struggled on and off the ball before being substituted in the 71st minute. As per SofaScore, he lost five of his eight individual duels and failed to make a single clearance, block, interception or tackle. This suggests that he was lacking on the defensive side of the game, as he was too weak in his battles and did not do enough to win back the ball for his team.
The 25-year-old also offered very little in possession. As per SofaScore, he completed 16 passes and failed to create a single chance, whilst also failing with three of his six attempted dribbles. He lost the ball 16 times from 38 touches, a recurring theme for him since joining the club.
In six League One appearances for Sunderland, Roberts has lost possession 48 times from 98 touches, which effectively equates to losing the ball every two touches on average. This is a shocking statistic and shows that he has been far too wasteful on the ball for the club in his short time on Wearside so far.
Therefore, Neil must brutally axe him from the starting XI, as the winger’s abysmal form does not suggest that he will have a positive impact on the team against Crewe Alexandra. Hopefully he will be able to rediscover his best form soon, but he may have to do that whilst coming off the bench to prove that he deserves the time to get back to his best.