Who will score the goals to save Sunderland?

Sunderland Stadium of Light

With a paltry 25 goals scored all season, Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat is looking all around his squad to work out where the goals will come from.

The fillip of the 1-0 derby win over Newcastle proved a false dawn as Sunderland were systematically ripped apart at the Stadium of Light by Crystal Palace on Saturday. The 4-1 defeat exposed the defensive failings that have been apparent all season - it was the fourth time Sunderland have conceded four or more goals in a game - and yet the problem is compounded at the other end of the pitch, where only Aston Villa have scored fewer than them, with 24 goals.

Sunderland lie three points above the bottom three and badly in need of points, and looking at all of Sunderland's goal-scorers this season, it is hard to see where the goals could potentially come from:

  PositionTeamGoalsAppearancesMins Played
Steven Fletcher FW Sunderland 4 26 1,632
Adam Johnson MF Sunderland 4 27 1,878
Connor Wickham FW Sunderland 4 30 2,284
Jermain Defoe FW Sunderland 3 11 925
Sebastian Larsson MF Sunderland 3 31 2,624
Jack Rodwell MF Sunderland 3 19 1,253
Jordi Gómez MF Sunderland 2 26 1,671
Lee Cattermole MF Sunderland 1 23 1,908

Jermaine Defoe has been a disappointment in general terms since his much-heralded arrival from Toronto FC in January. Sunderland have invested a lot in the 32-year-old, not least the hope that he can fire the goals to save them from relegation from the Barclays Premier League, but just three goals in 11 appearances (plus two as sub) is a pretty meagre return.

However, Defoe holds by far the best goals per minutes ratio with one goal every 308 minutes. This is compared to main striker Steven Fletcher, who has a record of one goal every 408 minutes. 

Last season's saviour was Connor Wickham, who returned from a loan spell at Leeds to score five goals in three games, which helped ensure the Black Cats' safety. This season has been a struggle for Wickham though, and he has managed just four goals at one every 571 minutes.

Wickham has shown that he has the character and the goals in him though, and Dick Advocaat will be aware of the impact the powerful striker can have.

Elsewhere, Adam Johnson has returned to the team via the substitutes' bench in recent games, with Advocaat wisely keeping him out of the limelight. It may be that Johnson can have an impact from the bench, but as the team's needs grow, Sunderland will be wanting more from the tricky midfielder who is joint-top scorer this season with four goals.

A final potential source of goals is midfielder Jack Rodwell, who has three from midfield this season, and if he can stay injury-free the 24-year-old has it in him to score the big goals that Sunderland need.

The Black Cats will be wary of a fixture list that has pitched them away trips to Arsenal and Chelsea as the last two games of the season.

Sunderland showed last season they can pick up big results when it matters - drawing 2-2 at Manchester City and winning 2-1 away at Chelsea - but it looks an even harder task this season, and upcoming games against Stoke (away), Southampton (home), Everton (away) and Leicester (home) must produce goals and wins if they are to pull off another dramatic recovery.  

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