April 24, 2024

Journalist Phil Smith has suggested one ‘tweak’ that Sunderland should make this summer.

Sunderland’s 2023/24 season is looking bleak, with the Black Cats currently in 12th place and facing relegation.

While relegation appears to be a distant possibility, if this run of six consecutive defeats continues, it might become a very real concern.

Sunderland terminated Michael Beale last month, and Mike Dodds is now in charge.

Dodds has lost all four of his games as interim manager, the most recent a 4-2 loss to Southampton last weekend.

However, injuries and suspensions haven’t helped the 37-year-old so far.

Phil Smith says Sunderland focus on young players has gone ‘too far’

Sunderland’s starting XI against Southampton was one of the youngest in Championship history, with an average age of 20.8 years.

Dan Ballard, at 24 years old, was the most senior player in the starting lineup that day, but while Sunderland did well to tie the game at 2-2, it never appeared like they would come away with anything.

And what has been accentuated in recent weeks, with Jack Clarke, Ballard, and Luke O’Nien being suspended for certain games, as well as injuries throughout the club, is a lack of experience and quality.

Sunderland is currently suffering from a lack of experience, as observed by Sunderland Echo journalist Smith.

Smith, speaking before of the QPR encounter on Saturday afternoon:

“At the moment, it’s gone a little too far for those young players, and they need some assistance. Dodds acknowledged that the team’s recent poor performance highlights the need for further experience and depth. Maybe this run has demonstrated that, moving forward, if Sunderland want to climb out of this division next season, they’ll need to make a few changes.”

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman coming under criticism

Sunderland's Kristjaan Speakman: Signings, success and their 'start-up' mentality - The Athletic

 

In football, the ultimate responsibility falls on the owners.

While managers and players may face criticism, it is the owners who put everything in place, and this season, everything appears to have come undone.

Sunderland enjoyed a fantastic season last year, and expectations were sky high for this season; perhaps too high after probably overachieving the previous year, but this campaign has been underwhelming by Sunderland standards.

It’s a team full of potential and quality, but as Smith points out, the critical factor missing is experience.

Without Danny Batth, Alex Pritchard, Patrick Roberts, and Clarke, this team has lost its balance, and experience is critical at this difficult period.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman will hopefully learn from their mistakes this summer and offer some much-needed balance to the first-team.

Sunderland must only hope they have the quality to make it through the run-in, but with clubs below them picking up points, the Black Cats’ season is shaping up to be a very cautious finish.

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