MARTIN O’NEILL says Sunderland need to bring their dangermen into the thick of the action higher up the pitch.
Sunderland were pinned back into their own territory for the first half of Saturday’s defeat to Arsenal and it was a similar story in the opening 45 minutes at Reading seven days earlier.
In each encounter, widemen Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon were largely restricted to collecting possession on halfway, rather than being in a position to attack the opposing full-back one-on-one.
But it is not something which has escaped O’Neill’s notice.
The Sunderland manager knows his side need to regain possession closer to the opposition goal to make the most of their attacking riches – something which the Black Cats did manage during the final 30 minutes against the 10-man Gunners.
O’Neill told the Gazette: “We want to get further up the pitch if we can, so if we break up some of the other team’s movements, then we are closer to their goal without having to go 40 or 50 yards.
“It’s always easier said than done, but it’s something I’d like us to be able to do so wingers are not picking the ball up just outside our own penalty area.
“The less distance they have to travel, then the more pace they can generate to go at the full-back.”
O’Neill admits Sunderland need to break their habit of sitting perilously deep from a defensive standpoint too.
Arsenal were able to enjoy a sustained spell of pressure in the Sunderland half before Santi Cazorla’s deciding goal 10 minutes before the interval.
“If you start to sit back and defend on the edge of your penalty area, you only invite trouble,” he added.
“Sometimes you get pegged back in a game because the other team are overwhelmingly better than you and they force you back.
“Other times, you do it because you feel as if there’s safety in numbers there.
“We want to get out of that.”