The full-back conundrum has been a problem for Sunderland for a long time now. Danny Rose and Marcos Alonso - two of the best we have had in recent memory - developed into top players during their time at the club, but they were never ours to keep. Fast-forward to the present day and it’s hard to argue against them being the two best left-backs in the Premier League.
Take those two out of the equation, and we’ve really struggled to find consistency in the position in recent years. Of our current options, Billy Jones has been inconsistent throughout his time at the club, showing spells of solidity and fragility in equal measure. Bryan Oviedo has started his time on Wearside reasonably well, and before him Patrick van Aanholt’s defensive ineptitude was often overlooked due to him acting as one of the team’s biggest goal threats.
In an ideal world, the modern-day full-back needs to offer an attacking option, but first and foremost he needs to be defensively sound. Unfortunately, those types of players who can consistently do both – for example the aforementioned Rose and Alonso – simply don't play for sides like Sunderland. In order to find one within range, you need a scouting network with one of the keenest eyes in the business.
The last few years have shown we do not have that, but the Roker Report chief scout thinks he may well have found one in FC Utrecht youngster Giovanni Troupee.
FC Utrecht have surprised a few with their form in the Eredivisie this season, and with three quarters of the season gone, they find themselves in the mix for a European place next season. One of the main reasons for their success is the emergence of 18 year-old right-back Giovanni Troupee.
The youngster has made the position his own this season, weighing in with a healthy return of three goals and three assists in his 24 appearances in the league.
It’s safe to say that Troupee typifies the qualities required from a modern day full-back. He is impressive in his dynamism, boasting great pace, acceleration and agility, and covers an awful lot of ground up and down the right flank. Defensively, he reads the game well and is impressive in the timing of his tackles. For an 18 year-old, his understanding of the position he plays is excellent and has the potential to improve further as he gains experience.
Going forward, Troupee is more than a useful asset. His pace and energy on the overlap can stretch an opposition defence. Once in the final third, he’s more than capable of damaging them, with the full-back not shy of taking on his opposite number.
Once in a position to cross, he has consistently shown the quality of his delivery, with the likes of Sebastien Haller – a rumoured target of Sunderland in the past couple of years – benefiting from his crosses from the right.
At this stage of his career, Troupee is yet to complete a full season in the top flight and is still yet to receive international recognition at any honour higher than under 18.
As a result, he is still a very raw package with an awful lot of development to undertake. The positional aspect of his game is a particular area that needs work, but there is no doubting that he has the raw materials to be a complete full-back.
Such accomplished, well-rounded full-backs are highly sought after by the very top sides. Troupee however is at a stage in his career where the decisions made can have massive impacts on its development.
If a side like Sunderland do come calling, they can guarantee him first team football at a higher level than he’s currently playing at, regardless of which league we’re playing in come August. Troupee himself only needs to look at the likes of Rose and Alonso to convince him that young full-backs can really flourish on Wearside.