Phil Smith has been speaking on The Roar podcast about the one key area that could hold Sunderland back from automatic promotion.
Sunderland had been riding the crest of a wave in recent weeks having gone unbeaten in 10 league games, however, they were swiftly brought back down to earth when Lincoln City won 3-1 at the Stadium of Light.
Will Sunderland finish in the top two?
It was the second league game in a row that Sunderland had conceded three goals, which will be an obvious cause for concern for Lee Johnson, and it’s not a recent problem, with the Black Cats having conceded 32 goals in the league – the most of any side inside the top nine.
Smith believes that the defence will hold Sunderland back unless it’s improved this month.
“Sunderland need to bolster their ranks, because I’m not sure you get the consistency of performance that you need from the centre-halves in terms of winning and going up in the top two.
“Clearly, there is an issue at right-back there, so I think there’s some work to be done there in recruitment, because I think at the moment, I’m not convinced these defensive options are taking Sunderland up.”
TIF Thoughts on Sunderland’s backline…
Against Lincoln, Johnson decided to use a back four, but it did consist of players such as Callum Doyle and Dennis Cirkin, who both arrived from Premier League clubs over the summer. However, they are just 18 and 19 years old respectively, so they have very little first-team experience, which could be holding them back in crucial moments, such as their last-minute goal conceded against Wycombe Wanderers.
Whether Johnson addresses his defensive options head-on in the transfer market over the coming weeks remains to be seen, but it does seem as though shoring things up at the back could go a long way to bolstering their promotion bid given they have got themselves in the automatic spots despite their evident issues in defence.