Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland: 'Naivety', 'a real find' and two lads from Bayern Munich - expert insight on Black Cats
Sheffield Wednesday’s opponents this evening arrive at Hillsborough off the back of one of their heaviest defeats in recent memory.
Sunderland lost 5-1 at fellow promotion hopefuls Rotherham United on Saturday to continue an up-and-down start to their fourth attempt to climb out of the third tier. Wednesday, of course, are hoping to end a run of four consecutive league draws and take three points from the clash.
But what of that defeat at the New York Stadium and which Mackems players will Wednesday have to watch out for at S6 this evening?
We spoke to Sunderland reporter Joe Nicholson of the Sunderland Echo to get the inside track on all things Black Cats.
An eye-catching result over the weekend - what on earth happened and had it been coming?
I thought it would be tough for Sunderland to get a result at Rotherham but didn’t see them losing so heavily.
They were 3-1 down when Aiden McGeady was sent off for a reckless challenge on 56 minutes, but it was hard to see them getting back in the game at that point anyway.
The side had made a promising start to the season but have struggled in recent weeks against teams that have pressed them high and played with attacking wing-backs.
This is a young Sunderland team which appears to have lots of potential and like to try and play out from the back, but the team has shown naivety at times this season.
Saying that, the so-called experienced players have also been disappointing in the last two defeats against Charlton and Rotherham.
How have things gone generally since this summer?
The club clearly changed their transfer approach over the summer and have targeted younger players from higher-league clubs - rather than players who have previous experience in League One.
There are pros and cons to that approach, but a lot of the players who have come in have impressed.
Callum Doyle, an 18-year-old on loan from Manchester City, has been a regular starter at centre-back and looks like he has a really bright future.
Dennis Cirkin, 19, has impressed after joining permanently from Tottenham while goalkeeper Thorben Hoffmann signed on loan from Bayern Munich.
Fans have welcomed the new strategy but there is a realisation that it’s a long season for a young group of players.
What system are they likely to play?
Johnson has predominantly played 4-2-3-1 this season but did change to a back three and wing-backs at half-time against Rotherham.
He may also use a 4-3-3 system like he did at QPR in the Carabao Cup last week to try and shore things up in midfield.
Who are their key players?
Ross Stewart has enjoyed an excellent start to the season and has 10 goals already.
He signed for Sunderland from Ross County in January but had a hamstring issue. He looks like a real find now though.
Midfielder Dan Neil, 19, has made the step up to the first team this season and signed a new long-term contract at his boyhood club last week. His composure on the ball and range of passing has been hugely impressive considering his age.
Carl Winchester has been another surprise this season, after moving from central midfield to right-back. He has scored three times from full-back and is a good outlet if he;s allowed to get forward.
It's yet another stumble in Sunderland's attempt to get out of League One - how is Johnson seen by fans?
There is generally an appreciation of the way Johnson wants his side to play.
He speaks well in press conferences and takes responsibility when his side have underperformed - like at Rotherham on Saturday.
It did feel like Sunderland were making progress under Johnson but losing 4-0 at Portsmouth and 5-1 at Rotherham in the same month will obviously bring scrutiny.
Finally, can you have a go at a predicted line-up?
Hoffmann; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin; Evans, Neil; Gooch, Embleton, O’Brien; Stewart.