Q: Sunderland made eight changes to their side last night. One of the players who remained was Luke O’Nien, who did well in midfield. This now poses a number of questions regarding the team that Jack Ross selects on Saturday. Does he stick with the team who beat Wimbledon? Does he give some of the players who impressed last night a chance to prove themselves in league action? Who would you play?
Craig Davies says...
Jack Ross deserves a lot of credit for recent performances. When the world seemed against him at worst, or losing all of its meagre patience at best, he largely skirted major pitfalls and galvanised the squad into a slicker and more menacing outfit.
I was one of those whose patience was wearing thin and he’s quietly impresssed me with endeavour and spirit. His teams, whether first 11 or second string have shown both of those qualities too.
Wednesday night was incredibly satisfying. It could have been a throwaway game and not many would have argued with passively allowing it to end with a loss as long as we heard the usual rhetoric about focusing on promotion, but it was a performance full of energy, effort and quality.
Grigg, perhaps feeling less pressure in a different competition, began to look like the player we’d all hoped we’d signed. He genuinely put in a shift worthy of praise and hopefully he’ll feel the benefit of that in games to come. Dobson’s relentlessness, O’Nien’s pressing forward and McGeouch’s coolness under pressure were also big pluses and contributed to an entertaining game.
As for changes this Saturday against Peterborough, I wouldn’t make wholesale changes from the team that dominated AFC Wimbledon in our last league outing.
Maguire will be on fire after his recent hattrick and Charlie Wyke looks to be a good, robust foil for Maguire’s subtle cleverness. I’d stick with them, despite a decent resurgence from Grigg. I’d also bring back Ozturk and Willis, who also deserve more time to intertwine their partnership after a promising spell. I would potentially keep O’Nien further up the pitch at Gooch’s expense. Luke could provide better defensive cover for Flanagan at RB and he has the energy and tenacity to bother opposition defences all day long. He deserves a shot in midfield, but dropping Gooch is admittedly a big call.
Central midfield is interesting. I like Power and feel that ultimately he and Dobson could make a terrific pair, but Dobson can learn a lot from watching Leadbitter operate at this level and therefore might just miss out this weekend. In the months to come he may well wedge his way into the team as a permanent starter at Grant’s expense.
It goes without saying that Jon McLaughlin comes back between the posts. Burge hasn’t done much wrong to be fair, but Jon is our best keeper and in general, our most assured player. For me, his inclusion is a must.
It will be a tough game against Peterborough and I’d have broke the bank to get Maddison so he’ll be out to prove a point. But I believe we have enough confidence and momentum to get a positive result.
Neil Graney says...
Whilst I get the sentiment of the question, I don’t think that Jack Ross will make many changes to the team which played against Wimbledon. I am more pleased that the fringe players seem to be bang up for it when they get their chance - it says a lot about their mentality and the togetherness of the squad.
Rather than try and argue a point that players should come in, can we really argue that Jon McLaughlin, Alim Ozturk, Jordan Willis, Chris Maguire, Grant Leadbitter, Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke could lose their place in the team?
By all accounts Luke O’Nien played well in the number 10 role, but on form he’s the best right back at the club. Whilst the Burnley squad was impressive we seemed to match them well, but we did ride our luck in the first half.
I would only question whether Jack Ross would bring George Dobson in for Max Power. We perhaps miss that extra energy in midfield - his added mobility may help stem the threat of Marcus Maddison, too.
Phil Butler says...
Of course Jack Ross will have been overjoyed by Sunderland’s cupset at Turf Moor last night, but the Lads’ second 3-1 win in a row has given the Scottish manager quite the headache when it comes to selecting his team to take on Peterborough on Saturday.
The easiest change to make from last night’s team is to bring Jon McLaughlin back for Burge, then bring centre backs Ozturk and Willis - who have shown signs of becoming a good partnership - back to resume their positions at the heart of the defence.
Whilst Luke O’Nien impressed in midfield against Burnley, his inclusion there was most likely due to his energy and pressing which is more necessary against premier league opposition. I’d return him to right back and bring Chris Maguire - who simply has to play - in for Conor McLaughlin.
Aiden McGeady’s return at the expense is also quite a simple change to make.
Now onto the most challenging decisions, who plays in midfield and who plays up front with ‘The King’. Although Power and Leadbitter haven’t cemented down their place in Jack Ross’ first choice side, I mentioned in Talking Tactics how important they are to Sunderland’s direct style of play - especially against other league one opponent.
However, George Dobson and Dylan McGeouch are both comfortable taking the ball from deep, and what they give up to Power and Leadbitter in long-range passing, I believe they make up from in energy and workrate. For me, Wednesday night’s engine room remains unchanged.
Finally, the age old question of Will Grigg or Charlie Wyke has reared its head once again, thank God Grigg is now a credible alternative to the former Bradford City striker. However, despite Grigg’s man of the match display at Turf Moor, the combination of Maguire and Wyke against Wimbledon just edges it for me, but the option of Will Grigg to come off the bench is finally looking like a good thing.
My team: McLaughlin; O’Nien Willis Ozturk Hume; Gooch Dobson McGeouch McGeady; Wyke Maguire.