Q: Reports suggest that Sunderland want to make Walsall captain George Dobson their next signing. What do you think of this particular piece of business, and what it could mean for how our midfield will shape up as pre-season progresses?
Michael Graham says...
I’m not going to claim to be an expert on Dobson specifically, but everything we’ve done so far this summer - releasing Cattermole, talking up and freeing O’Nien for a midfield role, apparently being open to letting McGeouch go, bringing Ethan Robson back into the fold - it all suggests the club have identified the central midfield as a problem area from last season.
And they are probably right, too. Sunderland failed to assert themselves in midfield in 2018/19. Yes, it was at times pretty in possession but it was also pedestrian, due largely to the fact, if we are honest, that most League One sides were happy to stand off us and allow us to have the ball in areas of the pitch where we couldn’t hurt hurt them.
But the truth is that you assert yourself without the ball far more than you do with it. I think back to the many matches with Portsmouth and how relentless their energy and pressing was, how aggressive they were in pursuit of the ball. We didn’t do that at all last season other than when Chris Maguire was hoying a mardy.
One Leadbitter, Power, or Cattermole is needed to keep things ticking over, but two of them, or even all three at times, became very one-paced, pedestrian, and predictable.
An injection of energy in midfield areas so the forward players can receive the ball behind the opposition’s midfield much more often. I feel like we played the entire season in front of teams last year and, as it eventually showed when McGeady got injured and Maja got sold, there’s only so long you can rely on individual magic to win you matches.
James Nickels says...
If it goes through - I’d be very happy. Dobson was a large reason as to why we struggled so much against Walsall last season.
We went behind in all three and only managed to beat them late in the season at home. In all three games Dobson captained the Saddlers and dominated our midfield, whoever it was against.
Dobson would be a great replacement for Lee Cattermole both in the short and long term. He’s only recently turned 21 hut is already Walsall captain and known for his leadership ability and mentality.
He could come into that role perfectly, or even push higher up in a box-to-box role. Without a doubt he already has a stronger passing range than arguably any other central midfielder in the squad barring a top form Leadbitter (or Ethan Robson if he reaches his own potential).
Aside from these obvious benefits on the pitch, it also helps signal a shifting transfer strategy. He’s young, with high potential for either us to benefit from on the pitch or sell on, has a strong injury record and is very much a player on the up.
For far too long we’ve bought injury prone hasbeens crying out for a contract anywhere.
Jack Ford says...
George Dobson is the exact kind of signing I hoped we’d be making this summer. He originally captured my interest when I heard he was playing for Sparta Rotterdam a few years ago, and subsequently signed him on Football Manager for him to captain my odds-defying Alfreton Town wonderteam.
As a result, I had always kept an eye out for him, and wasn’t surprised at all to see him play well against us last season.
Young, athletic, tall, strong in passing and the tackle, and with a good head on his shoulders, Dobson has all the attributes to succeed for us. While deployed as a deep-lying midfielder last season due to injuries, he has the athletic capability to be a real box-to-box midfielder, something our stodgy midfield is crying out for. Considering he got six more assists than Aiden McGeady last season, I’d also expect him to help us in finally creating some chances for our strikers.
This rumoured signing has somewhat restored my faith in our recruitment team, and I really hope we get it over the line. If so, it’ll mean we’re a far cry from the midfield four of Leadbitter, Cattermole, Whelan and Adam that I had half-expected to see this season!
Phil West says...
George Dobson looks to be quite a strong, robust player, and with Lee Cattermole’s departure, we need some muscle and some stamina in midfield.
I also don’t buy the argument that players from relegated clubs are necessarily a risk or a sign of desperation. Some people might say ‘well he can’t have been that good, because he couldn’t help to keep Walsall up’, but perhaps a fresh start at a new club could be of benefit to him.