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OPINION: Loovens & Baldwin look a strong pairing - no-nonsense defending is back at Sunderland!

Paddy Hollis argues that, whilst dropping a division has changed how we play, this is the most solid we’ve looked in defence for quite some time.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland’s last two campaigns have seen us partner a whole host of centre backs together at the Stadium of Light. Some have clicked, but most have proven themselves to be less than competent playing in the heart of defence for a squad often short on confidence and quality.

That being said, three new centre backs came through the door in the summer transfer window after Jack Ross identified the position as one in dire need of strengthening. Two of those new acquisitions in particular have, in my opinion, the potential to become one of the most reliable pairings seen on Wearside in recent years.

Jack Baldwin and Glen Loovens were put together for the first time for the 1-1 draw with Luton, but they really showed their worth in last weekend’s 3-0 victory over Scunthorpe on Sunday - and the early signs look good.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Loovens played alongside Alim Ozturk in the opening league match - and the latter was joined in central defence by Baldwin for the League Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday. If truth be told, Ozturk’s inclusion in both of those games presented a real weak link in the Sunderland defence.

However, as the season has developed into its infancy, the pairing of Baldwin and Loovens looks more than capable at this level. Both Loovens and Baldwin have plenty of Football League experience between them, which will be vital for a side which doesn’t have much in the way of League One experience.

Both looked solid in Sunday’s victory as part of a back four; their composure composed in their defensive duties was impressive, and they also looked a menace in the final opposition’s penalty area - much like the rest of the defence.

Baldwin had a fizzing shot blocked in the box when on another day he could well have found the back of the net. Furthermore, the height of both will also prove to be useful at set pieces - especially now that we have players who can put quality free kicks and corners into the box.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Of course, neither have been perfect by any means. Loovens has been caught out a couple of times during the first few games due to his lack of pace, and Baldwin was fortunate not to give away a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Sunday. That being said, they tick plenty of boxes elsewhere.

Neither player looks susceptible in the air, and they both like to keep things organised at the back. You can make the argument that they were not tested a great deal on Sunday against Scunthorpe, and that there will be tougher challenges ahead, but when was the last time we had an even vaguely competent centre half pairing?

You’d have to go back at least five years, which is a long time in football.

The pair aren’t going to set the world alight this season, but if their first few games together are anything to go by then we should see far fewer mistakes from our centre halves than in recent years. Their experience will be incredibly valuable as they line up in an otherwise very young and inexperienced squad.

If the little mistakes in their game can be ironed out then we shouldn’t have a problem building our promotion push from these two in our back-line.

No nonsense defending is on its way back to the Stadium of Light!

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