Following the game against Hull City on the ninth of January, Lee Johnson was left with a positional dilemma at right-back, as Conor Mclaughlin joined Luke O’Nien on Sunderland’s injury list, leaving the club with no fit right-back.
Lee Johnson’s hand was forced, and Max Power was drafted in as cover, which raised many eyebrows, yet the victory away at Ipswich marked Power’s fifth game at right-back, in which he has contributed to four clean sheets and only conceding one goal.
So, could this mark a permanent positional change for Power?
His attributes are best served at RB…
Max Power is a player who has divided opinion amongst Sunderland fans. Up until now, he has played all his Sunderland career in central midfield, where we have seen glimpses of his ability to pass the ball and grab the odd goal, but I would argue he has no place in the team as a central midfielder.
One of the most notable changes I have noticed under Johnson is that he likes to get the ball forward quickly. Players such as Josh Scowen, Carl Winchester and Grant Leadbitter have shown they can implement that, whereas Power often slows the play down by passing sideways or backwards, which is what frustrated me about him.
Under Phil Parkinson, many of Sunderland’s performances were characterised by an inability to break teams down and create chances and I would argue that stemmed from having 2 very similar players in Power and Leadbitter in holding midfield. Our play became slow and predictable, and we were often getting outrun by the opposition and whilst I am not saying that Power in a bad player, I am arguing that his qualities are best served at right-back.
Power is our club captain, and he is an important player to have in our team as he brings leadership qualities and a great attitude. As a central midfielder it often felt as though he was shoehorned into the team, but as a right-back he does not look out of place.
In one of his interviews, Lee Johnson alluded to the fact that Power himself admitted that he would like to play right-back and was due to play a whole season in that position in his time at Wigan before they went on to sign Reece James, which suggests that his switch to right-back should not come as a huge surprise to Sunderland fans.
With his latest performances at RB, I am sure he has silenced many of his doubters, including myself and against Ipswich he illustrated his ability to get up and down the pitch, none more so than our goal where he delivered an inch perfect cross for Wyke.
Power for O’Nien offers a natural positional switch…
Prior to his injury, Luke O’Nien has played all the season in at right-back, but there is no doubt that he is versatile. Since his arrival we have seen glimpses of his ability to play in central midfield, and he has all the attributes to be a successful box to box midfielder. He has also scored 10 goals for Sunderland, which shows that he carries a goal threat - which is something that none of our current central midfielders have.
O’Nien in is no world-beater, but he is a player I want in the team because he has a first-class attitude and is good on the ball, so I believe bringing him into midfield and keeping Power at right-back should be a permanent switch rather than a temporary solution.