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“Controversial opinion: is Sunderland’s over-reliance on Aiden McGeady a hindrance to the team?”

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“Aiden McGeady has been outstanding this season, with a hand in seventeen of our goals, but is our over-reliance on him is a hindrance to our progress?” writes James Chapman.

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There’s no doubting his talent - he is probably the most gifted player in the league.

With twelve goals and five assists to his name, Aiden McGeady has had a great season. But does his presence in the line-up somewhat inhibit the rest of the team?

Perhaps it’s a tactic of Jack Ross, or maybe his teammates’ over-reliance on McGeady’s magic, or even simply that McGeady is somewhat of a selfish player - but it appears that anything that happens on the pitch seems to come through McGeady.

So why is he an enigma?

Well, simply we need to learn to play without McGeady on the field. Passing the ball to McGeady and hoping he puts one on a plate for a teammate or rifles the ball into the net himself is not a sustainable style of play.

In the early season, we had a number of dangerous players. Our front four, usually consisting of Gooch, Honeyman, Maguire and Maja, drifted freely in fluid, creative set-up. Ross’ tactics also seemed responsive and flexible, switching to the lopsided 3-5-2 when required.

Lynden Gooch started insanely well. By Christmas he had five goals and eight assists to his name. Chris Maguire had five goals and four assists by the same date. McGeady barely featured until mid-October.

We looked like a team back then - now we look like a “one-man” team.

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Checkatrade Trophy Semi Final
Lynden Gooch started the season in sensational form.
Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Obviously there are reasons why our set-up had to change; Gooch’s form dropped off a cliff, Maja left, fatigue would no doubt set in. But my point is, we are capable of playing good football without McGeady on the pitch - maybe even better than with him.

So why are we now so reliant on McGeady? Does having McGeady make Ross tactically lazy? Instead of focusing on effective, wide, build-up play as we did early on in the season, the tactic now seems to be “pass to McGeady, hope something happens, repeat”.

If we go into next season with this as our primary tactic we are going to be in bother. McGeady is thirty-three this year, and not capable of carrying a team all season - nor should we be looking to build around him.

Yes, he is an excellent player, but he is not a long-term option.

I’m not saying we should move him on’ on the contrary he should be a hugely important part of our squad next season. But Ross needs to return to his tactics board and look for fresh ideas, and we have to be savvy in the market this summer.

Our over-reliance on him has to change.