The Black Cats squad is fairly weak to begin with, but a number of injuries to attacking stars have not helped matters.
Emanuele Giaccherini, Ricky Alvarez and Will Buckley are all out injured, and for a team who have scored just 23 goals in 30 games, losing creative players means a big void in the team.
The striking trio of Jermain Defoe, Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher were having enough trouble finding the back of the net anyway, so to enter the final run of fixtures without three big attacking playmakers available is concerning.
Head coach Dick Advocaat has a small squad to work with as he looks to help the Wearside club avoid the drop, but there is one player who is sure to play a key role in the absence of the aforementioned attacking players - Adam Johnson.
Johnson is back and available for match action after dealing with various off-field issues, and the English winger will be tasked with creating the majority of goalscoring chances for the strikers to convert.
Thankfully for the strikers, Johnson has shown he is adept at this role.
He has the third best key pass to minute ratio in the entire Sunderand squad - behind Giaccherini and Seb Larsson - but also the best clear-cut chances created per minute rating in the squad. Larsson may play slightly more key passes than Johnson, but playing in a deeper midfield role, he does not create as many clear-cut opportunities.
|Mins per Key Pass||Mins per Big Chance Created|
Johnson also ranks favourably in Sunderland’s squad when it comes to attempted assists – with only Larsson ahead of him – crosses delivered and deliveries finding their target. The England international has also attempted more dribbles than the vast majority of his teammates – with only Wickham edging him out there.
|Goal Assist||Total Att Assist||Total Cross||Accurate Cross||Total Contest||Appearances||Mins Played|
Johnson has had something of a poor campaign but, in Sunderland’s current state, he could prove vital to any survival hopes they have. While it is up to Defoe, Wickham and Fletcher to score the goals, due to a spate of injuries, Johnson will be on a one-man mission to create the chances for them to put away.