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Why Danny Graham mustn't dally in proving his worth to Sunderland's Michael Cox uses FourFourTwo's StatsZone app â now FREE â to run the rule over one of January's biggest transfers...

One of JanuaryâÂÂs most surprising transfers was SunderlandâÂÂs purchase of Swansea City striker Danny Graham.

It was peculiar for a few reasons. In an otherwise underwhelming campaign, Sunderland were benefiting from the prolific goalscoring of Steven Fletcher, and it seemed unwise to compromise his role in the side. There was also the question of why Graham wanted to drop down the league, having been in good form for Swansea shortly before his move â he also missed out on the Capital One Cup final victory over Bradford.

Graham is also a passionate supporter of SunderlandâÂÂs fierce rivals Newcastle United, which led to him being booed when playing at the Stadium of Light in a Swansea shirt, just two days before his move. âÂÂYouâÂÂll always be scumâ was the Sloop John B-tuned song of choice for the Mackems, partly because Graham had previously said inflammatory things about the club. Once asked who heâÂÂd support if Newcastle ceased to exist, Graham replied, âÂÂPut it this way â IâÂÂd stay as far away from Sunderland as I could.â Despite these concerns, there was little doubt that Sunderland supporters would take to Graham once he started playing well.

But thereâÂÂs the problem â Sunderland havenâÂÂt been performing well. Not for the first time, theyâÂÂve hit a brick wall at this point in the season â and since Graham signed, theyâÂÂve record just one point from five league matches, the 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, when they fought back from 2-0 down.

GrahamâÂÂs arrival has forced Martin OhâÂÂNeill to change his system. Previously, Sunderland played a 4-4-1-1 with Stephane Sessegnon behind Fletcher â the Benin international has, of course, previously deputised as a centre-forward in his Sunderland career, but this season he played a supporting role.

Now, Sunderland are a 4-4-2. âÂÂThe two players can play together,â insisted OâÂÂNeill in February. âÂÂI don't see that being a massive problem, but it is bound to take a little time.âÂÂ

SunderlandâÂÂs game is largely based around crossing, of course, and Adam Johnson was excited at the arrival of a second striker. âÂÂSometimes when you have one striker in the box with two men around him, itâÂÂs difficult to do anything,â he says. âÂÂBut when all of a sudden you have to two strikers in the box it can make a real difference. IâÂÂve said before to Fletch that when thereâÂÂs just him in the box, it can be so hard to play him in, but when youâÂÂve got more bodies in the box, you can often really get at teams.âÂÂ

Fletcher, despite underlining his happiness at GrahamâÂÂs arrival â the two have a good relationship off the pitch â didnâÂÂt mind playing as the lone striker. âÂÂI'm happy to play on my own up front, although I know not everyone is,â he said. âÂÂBut, for me, I quite like the added pressure of the extra responsibility, I quite enjoy it.âÂÂ

Since GrahamâÂÂs arrival, Fletcher has been forced into a deeper position. While Graham stays upfront and is barely involved in build-up play, Fletcher drops off. In the game against Fulham he concentrated on working the left channel, while Graham stayed in the box...

Away at QPR, Graham again remained central, but Fletcher drifted right â winning lots of aerial duels...

Inevitably, SunderlandâÂÂs build-up play still starts from the flanks, with the vast majority of their entries into the final third coming on the wings. But there hasnâÂÂt been a significant improvement in the success of the Black Catsâ crossing â lots of balls are pumped into the box, but they rarely find Fletcher or Graham.

And itâÂÂs not like Graham has contributed much in front of goal. The passes he receives are often long, straight balls rather than through-balls or dangerous crosses, and his finishing has been unimpressive. Considering Fletcher had scored ten goals in 22 starts before GrahamâÂÂs signing, but just one since, itâÂÂs hard to make a case for Sunderland being more threatening upfront.

Another problem is the lack of interplay between the pair. Granted, SunderlandâÂÂs approach is based around crossing, which doesnâÂÂt necessarily depend upon a good direct partnership, but itâÂÂs still concerning that Fletcher and Graham combine so infrequently.

Against QPR, they took a centre together, then combined within their own half â nothing at all close to the opposition goal.

OâÂÂNeill believed the partnership would take time to get right â there are little signs of progress so far.

This weekendâÂÂs home fixture with Norwich is a perfect opportunity for them to finally click â and Sunderland still need wins. Six points off the relegation zone, with games against Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle, Everton and Tottenham to come â plus matches against Southampton and Aston Villa sides fighting for their lives â Sunderland arenâÂÂt yet safe. Graham needs to justify his transfer fee soon, or OâÂÂNeill might revert back to his previous system.

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