Wearside Wheat From The Chaff: Who Can Be Part Of The Sunderland Solution? (Part 1)

Jamie McDonald

With January looming and the next phase of Martin O'Neill's Sunderland rebuilding on the horizon, we look at who is - and isn't - likely to be part of the solution on Wearside.

It doesn't matter who you ask, everyone seemingly has a different idea as to how to fix Sunderland. By a happy coincidence, we happen to have people to ask right here at Roker Report Towers, and we thought we'd actually make them do something for a change.

We asked 5 of our writers to review the current Sunderland squad with a simple question in mind: Are they part of the problem on Wearside, or are they part of the mid-long term solution.

So, with that in mind, allow us to present the first batch of players for evaluation.

Simon Mignolet

Simon Walsh: Without question Mignolet is part of the solution here at the club. He needs to be tied down to a long term contract soon as bigger teams will coming sniffing about him. The most underrated 'keeper in the league has to be part of the wider solution.

David Boyle: The man with one of the best chants going in his honour, Mignolet has really grown in stature since taking that bang to the mush. An outstanding shot-stopper who's command of the area is ever-improving, the Belgian has his best years ahead of him and hopefully we can keep him on Wearside for the foreseeable future.

Dan Williams: How glad I am to have an easy one to start with. Our goalkeeper is an essential part of squad, and despite one howling error, has been superb this season. Our only problem might be keeping him at the club, with rumours of teams such as Manchester United chasing his signature.

Chris Weatherspoon: Superb. For whatever reason, despite being a consistent performer since his arrival on Wearside, Mignolet has been viewed with an element of disdain by some. His performances this season have eradicated that. Without doubt, he will only get better - definitely part of the solution.

Karl Jones: He's established himself as our number 1, and caught the attentions of other clubs in the process. Under Martin O'Neill though, I hope a team can be built, and not constantly re-assembled. Keeping hold of Mignolet, and building from the back, is the foundation of such a plan.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Titus Bramble

Simon Walsh: Bramble has never been part of anyone's wider solution, so this one's relatively straight forward, no.

David Boyle: The epitome of "meh" in my book. Probably wouldn't notice or really care if he was to leave.

Dan Williams: No thanks. He's certainly not the worst player in the world as some people would have you think, but he's just not good enough. On top of that, he's a magnet for bad publicity and trouble, and we don't need that. Thanks Titus, but bye.

Chris Weatherspoon: A decent defender, most of the time, but I can't get away from the fact that he comes across as unprofessional. Can do a job until the end of the season but, should the right bid come in, he should be shipped out next summer.

Karl Jones: Much like the other defenders in the squad; he does a job, when he's fit. The problem is that Sunderland simply cannot carry three central defenders that are susceptible to injuries at the latter part of their careers.

The QPR link was perhaps more an agent doing his job rather than genuine interest, but with his contract coming to an end it presents an opportunity for O'Neill to find his new Martin Laursen.

Verdict: Part of the problem

Phil Bardsley

Simon Walsh: A tough one to call as he's very much what I'd consider to be a Martin O'Neill type, but I think finally Bardsley is on borrowed time at Sunderland and he'll be shipped off as soon as someone makes a decent offer.

David Boyle: While his workrate can't be faulted his defensive ability has come under increasing scrutiny of late and may well find himself replaced in the near future.

Dan Williams: It's easy to bash on Phil Bardsley, but he does make it easier for us. O'Neill loves his commitment, but let's be honest, anyone can try hard. His 'defending' means that he is more of a problem than a future solution.

Chris Weatherspoon: A squad player and nothing more. Long-term, the club should be looking to bring in a quality player at right full-back. Bardsley muddles through on grit and determination - by no means the worst attributes to have - but should be relegated to a bit part player whenever possible.

Karl Jones: It seems as if Bardsley's commitment, that had long veiled his limited defensive ability, has worn off of late and what we are left with was his performance against Chelsea.

Disposing of Bardsley at the January junction is premature - I dare say he'll be needed (well, a body will be) at some point or other. As June commences however and his contract is down to its final year, this issue can be addressed.

Verdict: Part of the Problem

Jack Colback

Simon Walsh: Yes, I think he is, but I don't think he'll be a full-time member of the first team. He's a great player in my eyes, but once O'Neill has his own men here I think he'll be pushed down the pecking order.

David Boyle: An extremely useful member of the squad, with a real drive, desire and a nice knack of picking out a team-mate. May well find first team football a little harder to come by should we bring in the central midfielder(s) we currently crave so badly, but would still be a good option to have in the squad.

Dan Williams: I must admit that I'm a bit blinkered when it comes to the ginger midfielder. I bloody love him, and think that he's got a very bright future ahead of him, and that it's at this club.

Chris Weatherspoon: Despite his detractors, I feel Jack Colback remains a man with a bright future at the club. His limited attacking abilities have come to the fore this season - but I still believe this is doubt to a lack of self-confidence than a lack of ability. Even if he doesn't occupy the midfield, he has proven himself a more than reliable left-back. A graduate the Academy of Light can be proud of.

Karl Jones: Often criticised for his style of play, but with creative quality either side of him and in front of him, Colback's tendency to simply find a team-mate is hugely understated.

Granted, when said attacking players are not having much joy - the start of the season a prime example - scrutiny will find its way to the delivery boy. His ability to not only keep, but win the ball, enables him to fit in seamlessly at left-back also.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Sebastian Larsson

Simon Walsh: Much like Colback, I think Larsson will be around for the long haul, just not as a first choice player.

David Boyle: While not quite as key to the side as he was when he first arrived Seb is still a cracking player on his day and while he may have to play second fiddle to Adam Johnson, he is certainly an able replacement.

Dan Williams: Have to agree with the other boys here, Larsson may not be our most influential player, nor is he a world beater, but he's always willing to put a shift in, and for that we should be grateful. His presence at the club now actually reminds me a lot of Steed before him.

Chris Weatherspoon: I was pilloried in the summer when I suggested there was no place for Larsson in the side, but it is a view I still hold. Larsson is a hard worker, and occasionally shows flashes of brilliance, but, for me, the negatives outweigh the positives. From central midfield he offers little; out wide, McClean and Johnson (and Sessegnon) are all better options; his set-piece ability is very hit and miss. If he's playing in centre midfield, which he has been recently, he's most certainly part of the problem.

Karl Jones: As a versatile, dependable squad player, as Adam Johnson's presence on the right flank has ousted Larsson from his favoured position. Hard-working and he chips in with a few goals, there is certainly no rush to discard him.

Verdict: Part of the solution

James McClean

Simon Walsh: I certainly see McClean as part of the solution here, and I think O'Neill will too. God knows he loves his wingers, and old-fashionedness and McClean combines both wonderfully.

David Boyle: I think James' future is in his own hands. He certainly has the raw talent to remain a key player for Martin O'Neill but will need to show more consistency to guarantee his place. As Simon says however, O'Niell loves a winger, so we can expect McClean to be around for the foreseeable future.

Dan Williams: Tricky one, but we all know that he's got the talent to be a great player. He needs to grow a bit of a brain, but I doubt he'll be going anywhere anytime soon, and imagine Mr O'Neill feels the same way.

Chris Weatherspoon: Solution, definitely. McClean's poor start to the season smacked of two things. First, he was too busy taking to Twitter. Second, he looked to overcomplicate things, as opposed to adopting the direct approach that worked so well last term. Thankfully, both of these trends have stopped. An excellent player defensively and still a genuine threat going forward, McClean can go from strength to strength - Sunderland would be daft to sell him.

Karl Jones: After an expected lull, McClean is resurfacing as an attacking threat. He's a very competent crosser and, when direct and bloody-minded, has the potential to trouble even the most accomplished full-backs, whilst also tireless in protecting his own full-back. I don't think we have seen the best of him yet.

Verdict: Part of the solution

Steven Fletcher

Simon Walsh: We - and in particular Martin O'Neill - spent best part of £12m on Fletcher, of course he's part of our future. Numpty.

David Boyle: O'Neill's number one transfer target in the summer, has gone on to grab the goals and impress with his all round game - fair to say this Scot is going nowhere anytime soon.

Dan Williams: He's basically our future. 'Nuff said.

Chris Weatherspoon: Seven goals already - in a poorly performing side. I don't really think this one is up for debate...

Karl Jones: That O'Neill targeted - and acquired - Fletcher should put most fans at ease. Over the coming transfer windows he'll have his targets and do his utmost to achieve them, but patience in football has gone the way of the peseta.

One of the most pleasing things this season has been the quality of Fletcher's finishing, rather than the volume. If there is a footballer that contradicts his stereotype as much as Steven Fletcher, let me know.

Verdict: Part of the solution

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