Luke Bowley: Yay To O'Shea
John O'Shea has come in for increasing stick from supporters, and understandably so, with the skipper being part of a defence that has leaked goals left, right and centre so far this season. The most recognisable of Sunderland's back four, it makes sense that he's the one that's copped a lot of the blame for the poor start, and his lack of pace and mobility has certainly been exposed so far this season.
However, a lot of the blame that has come his way is very harsh indeed. O'Shea weaknesses were largely exposed because of the system used by Paolo Di Canio, whose experimental decision to give up on defending left the Irishman without a hope of stopping opposition attacks. With no midfielders there to protect the back four, and with Ondrej Celustka attacking bursts leaving him out of position, it's no surpise that our defenders looked so inadequate. While it's true O'Shea didn't help himself with the catastrophic piece of play that led to Crystal Palace's second goal at Selhurst Park, along with a red card for himself, it would harsh to single him out for criticism for this season's poor performances.
We must also remember what John O'Shea is: a capable, experienced, but limited center-half. This is what he's always been during his time at Sunderland, but his leadership skills and commitment have always made him stand out, and he's been comfortably the club's best performing defender since his arrival. While our other on the field leader, Lee Cattermole, isn't always the most reliable man to depend upon, O'Shea has always been consistent, and to drop our club captain, at a time when stability is most needed, would be a mistake.
He's also, at this moment in time, the best option we have at the back. Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge have both showed great promise, but are still adapting to life in English football, and it would appear that Diakite in particular isn't quite ready for a run of games yet. Having an experienced, League-winning defender alongside them, who knows the club very well by this stage, will help them develop and get used to life in the Premier League.
So while O'Shea arguably hasn't been quite at his best so far this season, he still has a vital part to play in the team. With Sunderland rooted to the bottom of the table, we need all the experience we can get, and they don't come much more experienced that John O'Shea. Bringing in two players unfamiliar with the league to play together could spell disaster, but in our captain we have a man who can really help drag us out of the mire we're in.
Karl Jones: John Gone?
The problem is with John O'Shea is that he doesn't really excel at anything - he's a decent enough defender, and has decent enough awareness that often prevents forwards exploiting his lack of pace. His one area of expertise is leadership, although on-field direction has been lacking for some time.
Granted, the former Manchester United man is extremely experienced, but since the turn of the year Sunderland has conceded first in 18/24 games - and recovered just eight points in the process. Â This is a stark contrast to the attitude and desire of Roy Keane's team, despite the lack of ability the team has or the supposed big characters that feature at present.
More alarming, was the leak of a comment from a former player that stated they âwould run through brick walls' for former manager Martin O'Neill. Now, there was precious little evidence of that, with O'Shea as one of its leaders. Norwich at home, against ten men, was a prime example of the lack of urgency that has engulfed Sunderland.
Given that Modibo Diakite is showing potential of becoming a dominant centre-back, and Valentin Roberge's display against Manchester United indicated a willingness to add grunt to his guile - not to mention Lee Cattermole's return to the first team picture - O'Shea's influence is slowly decreasing as his 33rd birthday approaches.
Would you drop John O'Shea from the side at the moment? You can make your vote heard in the poll below, even though it counts for absolutely nothing.