No cohesion or consistency: Sunderland's glaring deficiencies laid bare

Brentford's first goal on Saturday.
Brentford's first goal on Saturday.

Sunderland may have stopped the losing rot, but three draws against Preston, QPR and Brentford reflect a side that is currently less than the sum of its parts.

There is plenty of individual quality and at this level, the likes of McGeady, Watmore and Grabban mean the Black Cats always have a goal threat.

What they don’t have is convincing cohesion or consistency, something that Simon Grayson will know he is running out of time to fix.

There may have been a touch of fortune about Brentford’s three goals, but in truth all reflected in some way a side that is simply too easy to play against, too easy to carve open.

The third and final equaliser was a perfect example of that, the defender allowed to advance with the ball under no pressure, Florian Jozefzoon picking it up and gliding towards goal. At least four Black Cats players are in his vicinity when he shoots but none are able to get close enough to stop the shot.

The last time Sunderland drew three games in a row, there was plenty of frustration as Sam Allardyce’s side looked like just missing out on safety.

In that spell, however, there were signs of a side coming together, the dam breaking in a pair of home games against Chelsea and Everton that rank as two of the finest in the Stadium of Light’s history.

The pace and scale of decline since then has been breathtaking, and leaves the latest incumbent in dire need of similar back-to-back wins.

Grayson’s appointment was made on the back of his rich experience at this level, and the feeling that he could stop the rot by building a side that first and foremost would be tough to beat.

13 games in and there is little sign of that.

A slight contradiction, of course, given that they are now unbeaten in three, but the more telling statistic is that their 25 goals conceded is the joint worst, alongside Burton Albion, in the league.

Given that Sunderland have at times fielded a back four all with Premier League and international experience, it is a desperately poor reflection of the work on and off the field.

The gap to the play-offs is now four wins and a draw, and it is interesting to see that is Norwich City that have climbed to sixth in the table after the kind of run many at Sunderland insist they are still capable of going on.

The Canaries shipped three against the Black Cats on the second day of the season, and four more against Aston Villa and Milwall in the subsequent games.

Since then they have kept six clean sheets in nine, lifting them firmly into play-off contention and taking all of the pressure off Daniel Farke.

The platform in attack is almost there, with Watmore a constant threat down the right hand side and Lewis Grabban playing superbly off the shoulder of the centre-backs.

The return of Jonny Williams in midfield and the gradual integration of Callum McManaman means that Sunderland should not be short of goals.

The concern remains their inability to hold possession for a period of time and their glaring weaknesses of the ball.

This campaign has started in alarming fashion, the manager clearly not helped by formerly Premier League players underperforming and being forced to rely on a transfer policy that in the short-term was always going to see new arrivals, short on football and fitness, pick up niggles and take time to adapt.

Nevertheless, the glaring deficiencies mean it is impossible to look at three draws with a glass half full mentality.

This is a crunch week.