Sunderland’s inability to exploit set-pieces has been a ‘massive frustration’ for manager David Moyes, writes Phil Smith.
The Black Cats have failed to trouble the opposition with any regularity this season, by far the weakest team in the league from attacking dead-ball situations.
Lamine Kone scored a fine volley at Selhurst Park after Seb Larsson’s floated free-kick was knocked down, but otherwise it has been poor fare throughout the campaign.
There were signs of slight improvement during the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City, Billy Jones twice coming close in the air from corners. They also had a goal disallowed when Jermain Defoe turned in a corner from Wahbi Khazri.
That had Pep Guardiola worried but for Moyes it is a big area for improvement, with Sunderland not offering much of an aerial threat.
He said: “It’s been a massive frustration. The biggest thing for me is that we’ve actually not headed anything in the net, we’ve probably not been close.
“Ultimately, the ball needs to come into the box to score and then what you need is people who are going to head it, we’ve not had that.”
Sunderland have played with a back three at times this season but that has not translated into aerial dominance.
The delivery of Seb Larsson has come under scrutiny but Moyes feels that has not been the problem.
He wants his defenders to make better use of their stature from now until the end of the season. Papy Djilobodji and John O’Shea are yet to sore this season while Kone has not been as threatening as when he first arrived on Wearside.
Remarkably, Sunderland are the only team in the Premier League not to score a headed goal this season.
Moyes said: “Jason’s not got massive stature, Papy has but we’ve not been able to get our head on the ball. It’s something we are looking at. Could you put it down to delivery?”
Part of the problem has been Sunderland’s lack of size up front, and it is another department where Moyes is hoping a return to fitness for Victor Anichebe and Jan Kirchhoff could offer a boost.
Not only are they struggling in attack, but Moyes also conceded defending set-pieces at the other end is a source of concern.
Moyes said: “That is one of the reasons, generally we’re not a big side, a tall side. We’ve not had Victor playing often enough, Kirchhoff not often enough. We’re actually physically quite small as a team.”