Despite not completely filling me with confidence – especially with his tendency to push shots back into danger – Lee Burge has still only conceded one goal in League One this season.
With the defence in front of him much-changed due to a significant injury crisis, Burge’s constant presence between the sticks will become more important if Sunderland’s defence are to continue their strong start to the season.
CB: O’Nien CB: Wright CB: Sanderson RWB: Gooch LWB: Hume
With the long-term injuries to Arbenit Xhemajli and Morgan Feeney compounded by Tom Flanagan’s ankle injury sustained on international duty and Jordan Willis’ bruised foot that forced him off the field at Swindon, Luke O’Nien is likely to be given more time to familiarise himself the role on the side of Sunderland’s back three.
Conor McLaughlin replaced Willis in the back three after the former Coventry man’s injury but with Dion Sanderson brought in from Wolves on deadline day giving Phil Parkinson the option to pick a natural centre half for the left-sided role I’m expecting McLaughlin to drop to the bench – especially with Denver Hume’s return allowing Lynden Gooch to move over to right wing back.
DM: Leadbitter CM: Power CM: Scowen
Phil Parkinson’s preferred formula in midfield clearly consists of one deep-lying playmaker puling the strings flanked by two box to box midfielders who drift wide to help the wing backs and wide centre backs to create overloads.
Grant Leadbitter is head and shoulders above George Dobson when looking for someone to dictate play from deep positions, even if Dobson’s younger legs give him the advantage over the club captain when Sunderland operate with a two-man midfield as they did at the end of last season.
Josh Scowen has gradually improved since his introduction into the team and, somewhat surprisingly, seems to be perfect for one of the wide centre midfield roles in Parkinson’s 3-5-2 system.
Alongside Leadbitter and Scowen, Max Power is Sunderland’s club captain and with Gooch needed at wing back and Maguire better as a second striker he faces little competition for his place in midfield until Elliot Embleton or Dan Neil can force their way into Parkinson’s plans.
ST: Wyke ST: Maguire
Sunderland have tried a number of different combinations up front as they look to find a formula that works, and with both of Saturday’s forwards finding the back of the net it would be foolish for Parkinson to change Sunderland’s most prolific strike partnership so far this season.
Chris Maguire played further up the pitch than the early games of the season, and his willingness to drop deep to link play certainly suits this role more than one of the centre midfield roles in which he is expected to make forward runs from deep and to stretch the play out wide.
Charlie Wyke has his critics – of which I am one – and is clearly a limited footballer, but there must be a reason why Parkinson constantly goes back to the former Bradford striker, and it makes no sense to drop him after he became the first Sunderland striker to score this season.