Brendan Galloway is just 21 and has shown himself to be a technically proficient player with a good touch and decent composure, but he just doesn’t have enough nous or awareness to play full back at Championship level.
Through excellent coaching or improvement as he gains experience Galloway may yet prove to be an asset on Wearside. However, at the moment, he’s the glaring weak point in our team that sides have and will continue to target.
The worst thing is you could sense something in the youngster’s demeanour and performance against Leeds that suggests he’s acutely aware of the early season criticism he’s been receiving. His three fouls in quick succession against Leeds United reeked of a player trying too hard.
The Everton loanee is aware he must win over the Mackem faithful after a suspect start, with his infamous opening day gaffe at Derby likely to still be playing on his mind. His attempts to display greater aggression and fight against Leeds backfired - he was exposed and found wanting yet again.
There is still hope around the corner for Sunderland in the left back slot - Bryan Oviedo made his comeback from injury for the under 23s last week, lasting 60 minutes in his first appearance since injuring his hamstring towards the end of the Premier League season.
Oviedo arrived at the tail end of last January’s transfer window alongside Darron Gibson and Joleon Lescott. The three ex-Everton boys rightly or wrongly represented a larger malaise on Wearside.
They were the last of several players incumbent manager David Moyes signed that he’d previously worked with. Oviedo was one of the band of footballers that represented Moyes lack of imagination and modern innovation that drastically hindered his time in the North East.
However, Oviedo is different to most of the Ex-Everton players who struggled last year. He’s younger, for a start, at 27. He’s also a player who when fit isn’t as physically compromised as Lescott and Gibson. The Costa Rica international showed excellent energy and tenacity in his Black Cats debut against Crystal Palace and posted team high averages in both tackles and interceptions per game for the 2016/17 season.
His hot start didn’t last and Sunderland fans have rarely seen the attacking components of his game. However, Oviedo deserves a break considering how few Sunderland players looked motivated and regularly produced their maximum last term. Also given the conservative approach often devised by Moyes, there were fleeting opportunities for Oviedo to show his class going forward.
Only three seasons ago Oviedo looked a capable understudy to Leighton Baines and occasional option on the left hand side of a Champions League-chasing Everton team. It wasn’t an awful dip in form or a series of high profile errors that ended his time on Merseyside - he simply wasn’t fancied by new manager, Ronald Koeman.
The one knock against Oviedo has been his ability to stay fit for a sustained period of time. During his five year stay in England, the full back has had seven separate injuries and spent well over 18 months on the treatment table. The reality is a player of his quality likely wouldn’t be spending his prime playing second tier football, but for his chequered injury record.
When fit, however, Oviedo should be a real asset at this level. He can be placed alongside Wahbi Khazri, Lee Cattermole, Didier Ndong, Aiden McGeady and (reluctantly) Lamine Kone, as the only current Sunderland players who are undoubtedly of Premier League class. He may lack the dynamism of other recent Sunderland left backs: Marcos Alonso, Danny Rose and Patrick Van Aanholt, but then a select few footballers can match those three in the left back position. There certainly aren’t any left backs who can match their attacking output in the Championship.
Oviedo probably won’t be one of our key players across the Championship campaign. Attempts to sign a prolific striker between now and August 31st are likely to have a bigger bearing on our final league position. But Oviedo is perhaps the best and most important Black Cat expected to return to full fitness soon. Not only will he be replacing the worst performer in the team, he should be one of the best full backs in the second tier.
Sunderland’s problem position will be a problem no more.