Sunderland’s bright start to the season continued this week as they beat Rochdale 2-1 at Spotland.
It means the Black Cats have now won three in a row, starting with Accrington Stanley and also taking in Portsmouth and Dale.
With the pressure of expectation weighing down on Jack Ross, that start has still been under some scrutiny. He’s already played three different formations, abandoning three at the back after the opening two draws.
Some supporters would like to see a flat 4-4-2 with a strike pairing adding potency, but Ross is cautious. His side started solid enough at Rochdale but looked likely to concede as the game went on.
Ross will not want to risk letting one in early against Wimbledon at the Stadium of Light this weekend. With 30,000 fans likely to be at the game, any early slip can soon turn the atmosphere toxic. That’s why we think he’s stick to the tried and tested 4-2-3-1, as covered below.
Whilst they have plenty of options at the back, we have suggested a minor tweak in the defence. Jon McLaughlin will start in goal, but his namesake Conor hasn’t been as stable at full-back. He played on the left against Rochdale and as a natural right-footer, the balance is lost.
Denver Hume has struggled early on this season, but he’s far more competent in a flat back four, so we’d play him there with Luke O’Nien on the other side of defence. It’s harsh on McLaughlin, but the back four needs that extra balance.
Jordan Willis is a sure-fire starter and whilst Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin wait in the wings, Alim Ozturk has seized his chance and should keep his place.
The holding midfielders did little wrong, so we’d keep Leadbitter and Power in the side, with the attacking trio of Gooch, McGeady and Maguire ahead of them. If they went 4-4-2- then perhaps Maguire would drop out for Will Grigg, but the former Bury man is better coming from deep.
Ross should stick with Wyke for this one. Marc McNulty has been ruled out and Wyke seems to be looking sharper than last season.