James Copley's verdict: These are the baffling decisions that cost Sunderland against Sheffield Wednesday

Around 7,000 fans travelled to watch Sunderland away from home over four days.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 7:58 am

The aggregate score from the League One games against Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday?

A resounding 8-1 defeat.

But where do Sunderland go from here? It is a difficult question to unpick.

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Lee Johnson on the touchline at Sheffield Wednesday.

Change is needed. I will stop short, well short in fact, of calling for a managerial shift. Lee Johnson, for me at least, still has credit in the bank.

Admittedly, though, three straight losses in League One have brought the word ‘streaky’ firmly back into Sunderland fans’ vocabulary.

Moreover, some of the head coach’s decisions against the Owls on Tuesday night left a lot to be desired.

Luke O’Nien has struggled in the middle in recent games, failing to hold onto the ball effectively and making silly mistakes.

The best we see of O’Nien tends to come when he is allowed to do the less glamorous sides of the game before giving the ball to someone more technically gifted.

Why, then, is he taking Sunderland’s set-pieces?

In his three full seasons at the club, O’Nien has been solid and steady but has never displayed an ability to deliver the sort of ball you’d like to see in your free-kick or corner takers.

It is a puzzling situation and one which has rightly irked Sunderland fans.

And there is a growing case for the conviction that the 27-year-old is not a League One midfielder.

Even more baffling was Johnson’s reluctance to match up Sheffield Wednesday’s five-at-the-back formation like-for-like.

And at Hillsborough, Darren Moore’s wing-backs Calum Paterson and Theo Corbeanu had the freedom of the pitch.

Johnson, however, didn’t change a thing until Sunderland went three down in the second half.

In short, Sunderland can’t win promotion whilst playing like this.

In their two big tests this season - Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday - they have failed and spectacularly so at that.

Sunderland now have 18 days to dwell on their situation until their next League One fixture against Ipswich Town

But for now, the goodwill Johnson was beginning to build feels as if it has been sucked out of the club once more.A message from the Football Clubs Editor

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