After Sunderland midfielder George Dobson allegedly told manager Lee Johnson he will leave if not given more game time, many fans have jumped at the thought of him leaving the club.
Some seem to view him as the worst player in the current squad, while others have labelled him as one of the worst players we’ve had in recent years (and oh boy, he has competition).
However, while he hasn’t set the world alight since joining the lads, I believe a lot of the criticism he has faced has been unjustified.
At Sunderland, Dobson has been forced in roles that easily expose his weaknesses as opposed to playing to his strengths, as he has been used in systems that require him to go forward and attack, as opposed to simply defend.
As a youth player at Arsenal, Dobson very rarely played as a midfielder, spending most of his minutes at centre-back, before West Ham decided to trial him as a defensive midfielder in their u21 squad when he joined the Hammers aged 17.
Fast forward a few years, and Dobson ended up captaining Walsall and winning their player of the season award in the 2018/19 season.
Given he was a defensive midfielder for one of the most defensive sides in the league (as proven by their goal tally of 49 – only Bristol Rovers and AFC Wimbledon managing fewer goals that season) it meant Dobson spent a lot of his time at Walsall without possession of the ball.
In a defensive midfield role he could focus on preventing the other team from attacking and aiming to win the ball back, as opposed to linking up with the forwards.
However, since joining Sunderland, a lot of the focus has been on him to progress play or link up with the forwards, a role he isn’t used to.
This has resulted in his weaknesses being exposed. His passing has been wayward, he’s often been caught in possession while his lack of creativity has been evident.
As a side that tends to dominate possession – along with us lacking creativity – we have looked to players like Dobson to create.
If we’d utilised Dobson as a holding midfielder with effective chance-creators slightly ahead of him, I believe his time so far at Sunderland would be a different story and we’d possibly be reflecting on a player who’s shone, or at least had a positive influence, in a role he is suited to – as opposed to struggling in a role not made for him.
Having said all of that, I would still not be against the idea of him leaving this transfer window to free up a space for a creative central midfielder.
However, I believe Dobson has more to offer than he has shown, and that we may not have seen the last of him at League One – or higher – if utilised correctly.