Sunderland are dealing with a striker injury crisis following the absence of Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms, which is clearly translating onto the pitch as the Black Cats picked up another draw in the Championship against Preston North End on Saturday.
It’s the second draw on the bounce for Tony Mowbray’s side who have now fallen to seventh in the league table, meaning they have now dropped out of the playoff positions.
The manager has since spoken out on the lack of creativity over the game, telling reporters in his post-match interview yesterday:
“I don’t want to get hung up about the lack of strikers, because we’ve found a way in the last two games.
“Today we didn’t get those spaces that we thrive in, they are a well-organised team. We’ve got players in the side and on the bench who can score goals, so we’ll keep going.”
One player who has had the pressure put on him to make up for the lack of Stewart and Simms is Elliot Embleton, but it hasn’t worked out so far for the 23-year-old.
Against Preston North End, the talented midfielder was played out of position in a centre-forward partnership with Alex Pritchard, and his deployment in that role was reflected in his performance.
Despite having one shot on target, Embleton lacked any sort of presence up top, losing possession of the ball every 3.5 touches and misplacing 100% of his crosses, two alarming statistics for someone who needs to bring others into the picture.
He was also poor from a physical point of view, winning just 40% of his duels, ultimately failing in his challenge to take all three points from the game in front of the home support.
Embleton hasn’t scored a goal so far this season but has delivered two assists when he was brought on against Reading following Simms’ injury in the 37th minute. As a result, there is no doubt he can be effective as an attacking threat in the team and deploying him in a better position could give the manager a better chance of getting the very best out of him.
Failing that, a spell on the bench could be the best use of his time, with WhoScored’s average match ratings suggesting he is the worst player in the squad this term of anyone to start a match.
The games are coming thick and fast for the Black Cats with a clash at the Stadium of Light with Blackpool on Tuesday night so Mowbray has no time to reflect or rest on his laurels and must find a certain solution to convincingly winning games without the two injured strikers.