There was a point in time, not all too long ago, when a defensive partnership of Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson helped Norwich City saunter their way to a Championship title.

At present, however, Tony Mowbray and other opposition managers are discussing why pressing them in particular is a key part of their game plan when they arrive at Carrow Road. 

No team has more errors leading to shots than Norwich this season - their inconsistency stems from poor decision-making and indecision across the pitch. 

Those types of statistics are why wider talk of a rebuild have lingered throughout a campaign where Norwich have underperformed in the main, and have been left with a late surge towards the Championship top six to salvage their season. 

Gibson's name has often, fairly or unfairly, been lumbered alongside those who some feel should be exiting in the summer. 

Injuries have undoubtedly affected his game since that triumphant debut campaign at Carrow Road where he looked like a Premier League-grade defender - but those days increasingly feel behind him. 

There are glimpses of the same player in possession and his work on the ball is undoubtedly superior to that of his defensive counterparts but the mistakes have become too damaging and an all-too-regular feature in his game. 

A strong and heavy Sunderland press didn't aid Norwich's work in possession on this occasion - but Gibson's concession to concede a corner from an unopposed phantom pass during the first half underlines where he finds himself at present. 

There have been signs of improvement in recent weeks, but with Andrew Omobamidele, who is at a different stage of his career, waiting in the wings - a costly mix-up at Millwall and more errors this weekend will likely point to a change for the midweek clash at Huddersfield. 

Gibson doesn't possess the same presence, physicality or ability to protect the space in behind the backline as the 20-year-old Irish international. Norwich's record is better with Omobamidele at the heart of their defence. 

At 30, Gibson is an experienced professional. He has exceptional and innate leadership qualities, making him an important and popular member of David Wagner's dressing room. 

As a left-footer, he offers City's backline natural balance that helps with their overall cohesiveness in possession, but that counts for little when the defensive foundations aren't in place. 

Wagner's challenge is to rediscover that player who performed so well during their last Championship campaign - he had seemingly stabilised Gibson's showings prior to the last fortnight. 

Inside the club, there is an awareness that Gibson was once a player who attracted an England call-up earlier in his career, has made nearly 200 Championship appearances and been a mainstay in promotion-winning sides at Middlesbrough and Norwich. 

Since Wagner succeeded Dean Smith in January, he has made only four starts with injury and the form of Omobamidele and Grant Hanley keeping him sidelined. 

Evidence in his opening two starts against Cardiff and Birmingham showed improvement was on the horizon. Particularly in their 2-0 victory over the Welsh side, he showed glimpses of returning to his best. 

The Pink Un: Ben Gibson has some loud critics to overcome at Norwich City.Ben Gibson has some loud critics to overcome at Norwich City. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Some objectively might wish to point out the position of those sides in the Championship league table compared to the last two encounters - but Gibson is striving for consistency. 

The injuries, namely the ankle one sustained at the back end of their Championship crusade in 2021, seem to have had a lasting effect on his game. Those levels haven't hit the same height since that nasty incident against Blackburn. 

The deficiencies in his game would only get magnified if they found themselves back in the Premier League again. 

There is still value in there, but his mission has to prove those critics who feel his best days are behind him wrong. He would argue that the opportunity to discover form amid a stop-start campaign has proven tough. 

But some have concerns about his mobility and the ease that strikers are moving City's defensive two into areas that cause problems for them - as Tom Bradshaw achieved last weekend at the Den and Joe Gelhardt in the build-up to Sunderland's winning goal. 

Wagner, since he arrived at City, has improved individual and collective performances in the main - there is no reason as to why Gibson cannot benefit from that tuition in the same way as others. 

There is an argument that the arm wrestle that Huddersfield will seek to create may actually benefit from his grit and experience, his lack of pace not likely to prove problematic against the likes of Danny Ward, Martyn Waghorn or Jordan Rhodes.

The Pink Un: Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley were unable to prevent Sunderland opening the scoring. Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley were unable to prevent Sunderland opening the scoring. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd) 

But he has left Wagner with a decision to make. Ultimately, it is the opinion of his head coach that matters, not those dissenters questioning his long-term role in this Norwich squad. 

Those questions exist around plenty of Norwich's playing squad, particularly those who have plenty of miles on the clock in yellow and green. 

That discussion can be held for another day - for now, with 10 games remaining, Norwich need him at his very best. 

Both Gibson and Wagner need to rediscover a way to significantly reduce individual errors originating from defensive situations.