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Reader’s Corner: Re-energise Sunderland’s Midfield? Luke No Further!

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Welcome to Reader’s Corner, where we invite YOU, the good folk who skim these pages, to offer your own articles up for our website. Today, RR reader Andrew Richardson explores the possibility of playing Luke O’Nien in midfield.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Predictable, cautious, ineffective. Which of these traits best describes the vast majority of Sunderland’s midfield personnel over the past few years?

Probably all of them.

One player that I have never labelled as any of the above is Luke O’Nien.

Of course, he has his flaws and limitations like all players plying their trade in League One, but as he returns from his recent injury, I’d love to see O’Nien given more of a run in his natural position in the midfield, where I believe his zest and zeal could be of great benefit to Lee Johnson’s red and white army.

Portsmouth vs Wycombe Wanderers - The Emirates FA Cup First Round
O’Nien made his name at Wycombe as a midfield player
Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

In one sense, it’s no surprise that O’Nien hasn’t played in his favoured role more often.

Versatile, willing, energetic players must be a dream for any manager to have at their disposal: their ability to fulfil a variety of roles to a more than capable standard provides a manager with options to deploy a favoured formation – and then fit such individuals into the positions he needs them in.

I’d argue, however, that O’Nien’s versatility and eagerness to play wherever he’s told to has worked against him in his time at Sunderland, and that ultimately previous managers have missed a trick with the former Wycombe man.

O’Nien is a central midfielder, capable I feel of being a very effective box-to-box player at this level on a weekly basis.

I choose the word ‘effective’ here very intentionally.

i’m not trying to big him up to be something he’s not. Luke’s no world-beater – but he’s effective. He’s capable of having an impact upon games, even when played out of position.

Too many midfielders (and – somewhat frighteningly – forwards) at our club, I fear, do not positively affect games anywhere near as much as they should. (I don’t feel the necessity to name names here: feel free to fill in the blanks.)

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
O’Nien offers a goal threat that is somewhat lacking elsewhere in the team
Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Recent developments such as Max Power moving to right back, the arrival of Carl Winchester and the increasing inclusion of Elliot Embleton indicate that Lee Johnson has already identified midfield as an area in need of some fresh impetus.

I for one would like to see O’Nien thrown into the middle-of-the-park mix too as opposed to him being utilised elsewhere to fill in gaps.

Maybe then we might finally begin ‘rocking all over League One’ as we Mackems have been so expectant to do for the past two and half years.