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Five Players That Could Make Full Debuts v Arsenal

It's no secret that our under twenty-ones are enjoying a successful season thus far, and that Sam Allardyce will make big changes to his side that face Arsenal in the cup on Saturday. With that in mind, there are likely to be debuts handed to some of our younger players that have been playing well for Andy Welsh's development team.

Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford has had an unbelievably successful season thus far for both club and country.

Pickford cemented himself as the number one goalkeeper in Gareth Southgate's England under twenty-one's side this year - breaking Preston club clean sheet records along the way - before a decision was made to bring him back early from his loan spell at the Championship club last week.

There is no questioning that Sunderland possess an immense talent in the Washington-born stopper.

Although it seems a bit harsh to cut his time short when he's progressing as well as he has been with Preston to me, it makes alot of sense - with the Arsenal game on the horizon, Sam Allardyce has an opportunity to see Pickford play for Sunderland against high level opposition and, if it doesn't work out, Pickford won't be short of potential loan suitors.

Many are expecting him to take on the mantle of Sunderland number one sooner rather than later, but it's important that both Sam Allardyce and the fans get to see the lad in action before any sort of decisions on his future are made.

Pickford, who is proficient in the air and is incredibly quick, is known for his kicking ability and it's something that both of our other senior goalkeepers tend to struggle with. Should Jordan turn in an impressive performance on Saturday he may well give Sam Allardyce food for thought with regards to who should be our starting goalkeeper for the rest of this season.

Thomas Robson

When it comes to left back options, Sam Allardyce possesses very few - in our senior squad only Patrick Van Aanholt and Billy Jones can operate in that position and neither have enjoyed a particularly convincing season thus far.

Tom Robson - who has been earmarked as one of the top talents in our development squad for a number of years now - signed a new two-year deal at the turn of the new year and it's clear that club have big plans in him considering the second year of his deal will be as a professional, and not a development talent.

Although very little is known about Robson from a fans perspective, beyond his appearances in the under twenty-ones and his cameos in pre-season last year when Gus Poyet was manager, he's a player who may well start the game on Saturday should Sam Allardyce elect to rest Van Aanholt and Jones with the midweek Swansea game in mind.

Robson is athletic and is very much a modern full back, with his greatest asset his ability to join the attacks down the left-hand flank. Last week the Sunderland Echo reported that he's likely to be loaned to a club in League One, with Wigan a potential destination for the latter half of the season.

Will he play? The fact he's been training and travelling with the first team in recent weeks would suggest that Sam Allardyce is looking at him seriously. I hope that he does.

Tom Beadling

Having became very much a part of Dick Advocaat's squad during pre-season, Beadling unfortunately picked up an ankle injury, which only seen him return to training in November. His first game back for the development squad was against Norwich three weeks ago, scoring as Andy Welsh's side won 2-0 and went ten points clear at the top of the Barclays U21 Premier League.

Beadling has been training as part of the first team over the Christmas period and made the bench for the Liverpool game last week, indicating that perhaps Sam Allardyce is keen to see if he has what it takes to play for the first team.

With the sheer amount of injuries our central defenders have sustained recently it will be interesting to see if Beadling plays a part in Saturday's game. Although it's a big ask for a young player to come in and play against a team of that quality pairing him with someone experienced like John O'Shea or Wes Brown is an option.

Lynden Gooch

When Lynden Gooch was introduced in the second half against Exeter earlier in the season he looked every bit as good as Duncan Watmore, who also played a part in the game. The USA U20s international - who spent time on loan at Gateshead last season - is a tricky, quick attacking midfielder with a good touch and ability to pick a pass.

Our options on the flanks aren't particularly great, though I'd imagine that Jeremain Lens will almost certainly play on the left against the Gunners. On the right, however, it's anyone's guess as to who will start.

Duncan Watmore has broken into the first team this season and Saturday is an opportunity to take him out of the firing line and give someone else an opportunity to impress.

(You can read an article I wrote on Gooch around eighteen months ago here, which profiles him in more detail.)

Liam Agnew

Despite only appearing once for our first team in a professional game - as a late substitute in last season's home FA cup victory over Fulham - Liam Agnew is one of the more experienced members of the development squad, having spent time out on loan to Boston United in 2014. Agnew is a holding central midfield player and someone I've been impressed with every time I've seen him play. He always has time on the ball, likes to dictate play and is great at picking out long passes from deep.

As brilliant as Yann M'Vila is he's played almost every minute for us this season and we really need him rested for the Swansea game. Lee Cattermole has been one of our better performers since returning from a back injury and Allardyce may well be tempted to leave him on the bench, with some important games ahead in the coming weeks.

Allardyce may well be tempted to experiment and play Agnew alongside Ola Toivonen and Jordi Gomez, who are also pushing for starts, with the former impressing in his cameo appearance against Villa at the weekend.

Agnew starting the game might well be a step too far. That said, I'd be surprised if we don't see his name on the bench.

Who would you like to see play on Saturday? Leave your comments below the article.

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