Sunderland fell to a frustrating 2-1 defeat at home to MK Dons on Saturday which saw them drop three points adrift of the automatic promotion places in League One.
The Black Cats got off to a perfect start to the match with Max Power firing home from outside the box to give them the lead after just 12 minutes. However, Phil Parkinson’s side failed to build on that throughout the rest of the game labouring at times in possession and struggling to create many clear-cut chances.
The defeat has raised question marks over whether Parkinson is the right manager to lead them to promotion from League One at the third attempt since their relegation from the Championship in 2017/18. The pressure was already on the Sunderland boss after the Black Cats missed out on the top six last term.
Sunderland are now facing a crucial decision over whether to stick by the former Bolton Wanderers manager, or make a change at this early stage to try and ensure they do all they can to pick up enough wins to secure automatic promotion to the Championship.
With that in mind, here are THREE reasons why the Black Cats might need to make the bold decision to change managers to save their promotion hopes…
Failure to address key Sunderland issues upfront
One of the main issues which Parkinson needed to address at Sunderland when he took over was the lack of a reliable goalscorer in the final third of the pitch. Finances were tight in the summer and that did not help matters, but it remains glaringly obvious that this problem was not addressed in the summer.
Parkinson put his faith in Danny Graham, with the experienced forward arriving on a free transfer after his exit from Blackburn Rovers. The 35-year-old had scored 15 goals for Rovers in their League One promotion season in 2017/18, but he has so far failed to register a single league goal for the Black Cats this term.
Quiz: Did these 17 Sunderland players ever actually score a league goal for the club?
Will Grigg is also yet to score this season in the league and he missed a sitter against MK Dons as his Sunderland struggles show no signs of passing. Charlie Wyke has scored four goals but his is not prolific enough to be relied upon. The Black Cats may need to find a new manager who can fix this key issue.
Uninspiring style of play
Sunderland have in the majority of their matches so far this season been the side tasked with breaking down their opponents who have looked to sit back and absorb pressure and hit them on the break.
Parkinson’s side have not managed to do enough in possession to break those sides down at times, and even in their game at Rochdale when they had seven efforts on target they still drew 2-2.
Some supporters are starting to get frustrated with Sunderland’s style of playe and slowness in possession at times when trying to break down their opponents. That is something that might need to change if they are to earn promotion from League One this season.
Playing players out of position
Against MK Dons, Parkinson played Lynden Gooch as a wing-back with Luke O’Nien starting in the back three, neither of those two players are naturally suited to those roles and it showed in the way in which the Black Cats defended at times in their 2-1 defeat.
Gooch is more accustomed to breaking teams down in the final third than he is to stopping opposition wingers, that showed against MK Dons with the American making a couple of poor decisions and giving away set-pieces.
The Black Cats may need a fresh manager to come in and play him in his more natural position to get the best from him and others.