Gav: START MCLAUGHLIN!
It cannot be ignored that Jon McLaughlin is a man out of form. He’s not yet achieved a clean sheet, he keeps on making costly errors leading to goals, and he’s generally less assured between the sticks than he was last season.
That said, I wouldn’t be rushing to replace him as our first choice goalie. For me he was our player of the season during the 2018/19 campaign and that, in my mind, should afford him with some patience from our fans and our manager. I’m not saying that he’s undroppable, but that I just think that he’s done enough for Sunderland to be allowed the chance to play his way out of this poor spell of form.
I can completely understand those who want to see Lee Burge given the chance to prove himself. After all, he’s never let Sunderland down whenever he’s played in the cup and he’s certainly proven himself as capable.
It’s important that we take a look at our upcoming fixtures, however. Sunderland are expected to play their game against Fleetwood Town during international weekend, and with Jon McLaughlin called up by Scotland it means that Burge’s chance will come around soon anyways.
Before we face Fleetwood we also have an EFL Trophy game against Grimsby Town at the Stadium of Light which Burge is expected to play in, so those who have an appetite to see the former Coventry City number one in action won’t have to wait long, regardless of the form of Jon McLaughlin.
Jack Ross doesn’t need to harm the confidence of his best player from last season by dropping him when naturally he’ll be unavailable to play in league action soon regardless. Let him have the chance to prove his doubters wrong before he heads off on international duty - who knows, a good performance against Fleetwood from McLaughlin could result in an important win in the promotion race, providing us all with food for thought as his deputy prepares to step up in his absence.
Tom Albrighton: START BURGE!
I don’t think much needs stated in order to make a case for Lee Burge to start on Saturday. Sentiment doesn't get you points and Burge deserves his chance. The easiest way to argue this is break it down into two factors - Jon McLaughlin’s. errors and Burge’s positives.
I’m not one to dig out too many players but Jon Mac’s start to the season has been shaky at best - an error-strewn start, whilst not being entirely at fault, has seen a keeper who gained us points last season cost us in this one. With his confidence at a low, his command of the area has been poor and his distribution even worse. He’s a target under the whipped cross.
As for Lee Burge, he’s made a very accomplished start to his Sunderland career. Commanding of his area in his few starts, Burge has cut a confident figure in his own area. Alert to danger, there is little hesitation in his ability to close a striker down. In his cup appearances, Burge has also showcased himself to be an adept shot stopper, with strong hands and good athleticism.
A main argument for Burge’s inclusion though is the quality of his distribution. Since Pickford opened our eyes to the potential of high quality distribution, Burge’s ability to pick a more accurate, driven ball trumps that of Sunderland’s current number one. Not being afraid to play out from the back and generally being quicker to distribute the ball makes the former Coventry man more efficient than his counterpart.
All in all, Lee Burge has earned his chance with solid, confident performances whilst McLaughlin’s form has steadily declined. There is little point in having two keepers competing at the squad if one is undroppable.