Matty Crichton says... “Joel Lynch!”
I will openly admit I have been critical of Alim Ozturk since his shaky debut alongside Glenn Loovens on the opening day against Charlton last season. For me this debate is a simple case of quality – I believe Joel Lynch is a far superior defender than Ozturk.
I do not think Lynch is perfect (I cannot forget his shocker at home against Burton), but when it comes to who is more likely to make a crucial error, Ozturk will always come to mind.
In some ways the two are similar: they are both dominant in the air and possess great strength, but I would argue Lynch’s ability on the ball is far more composed. Lynch can be prone to a needless hoof up the pitch; however, can any Sunderland fan really say they are not slightly anxious when Ozturk attempts to play out with the ball?
Another key flaw of Ozturk’s is his lack of pace, which can be criminally abused by opposition forwards. Anyone playing against him knows if they isolate Ozturk without Willis around there is only one winner. That issue does not apply to Lynch, which would help to remove a weak point from Sunderland’s back three.
Furthermore, the former QPR defender possesses vast experience playing in the EFL for the likes of Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield, whilst his competitor has not even played a full season’s worth of games in England.
Lynch has played nearly 400 times in the EFL, which would make him the most experienced player in Sunderland’s current starting XI. Having players with that range of experience is crucial to any team fighting for promotion.
Overall, I believe a back three of Jordan Willis, Joel Lynch and Tom Flanagan would make a quality defensive trio at this level. There would be a good mix of pace and experience along with physicality and aerial ability. If Ozturk was added to that defence you then have, in my eyes, a clear weak spot due to his lack of pace and composure on the ball.
Tom Albrighton says... “Alim Ozturk!”
No Wright, no worries. Alim Ozturk is a more than ample deputy for the injured Wright.
Casting our minds back not too far, Ozturk was a staple in our defence and has generally been in good form under Parkinson. Whilst not as mobile or agile as Wright, Ozturk and his no-nonsense approach are perfect for what we require because, no matter who plays as the central man in the back three, their role is a simple one. Head it away, win tackles, don’t do anything stupid and give it to someone else if you do happen to have the ball at your feet.
To suggest Ozturk is simple is somewhat unfair. A mainstay of the now much-adored back three, Ozturk has been omnipresent during some of Flanagan and Willis’ finer performances at the back.
A strong defender, capable in the air, and wonderfully organised, Ozturk will fill the gap perfectly - mainly because Wright was filling in Ozturk’s place initially. Many saw and still do believe that Ozturk’s omission from the starting eleven in recent weeks has been unfair and as far as I’m concerned they would be correct; after all, he was a miss at the back away to Portsmouth.
All in all, Parkinson has developed a strong backline and Ozturk has been a mainstay of that - especially considering the fact that Ozturk featured in the majority of our games since Christmas and didn’t actually put in a bad performance. In fact, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that Ozturk is one of our better defenders in that central role, and that he is somewhat underappreciated.
At twenty-seven, Ozturk is also approaching his prime years as a football player. With a wealth of experience this division - as well as further afield - Ozturk has the experience to adapt his game and be the defender Sunderland need at present.
A no-nonsense centre back for a no-nonsense league. All we need from Alim is 13 more solid performances at the hear of Sunderland’s defence. Should he prove to be as commanding as before, he might well find cult status on Wearside.