Is Lynden Gooch most effective as a wing-back or further forward for Sunderland?
Throughout the first half yesterday against Cambridge, Lynden Gooch was excellent and once again raised the question as to whether his best position is as a wing-back.
The American international thrives on the flanks in one-vs-one duels where he can attack defences and whip quality deliveries into the box. He was a constant threat and set up Nathan Broadhead’s stunning winner.
Although Gooch himself wants to play further forward on the back of his double-figure goal-scoring season under Phil Parkinson, I personally believe his best attributes are suited to playing as a modern wing-back.
As Sunderland are currently without four full-back options and have also spent a large proportion of this season playing Carl Winchester at right-back, I think we could see far more of Gooch in this position particularly if we continue with a three at the back system.
Lee Johnson has regularly used Gooch as right-back during tactical switches, so perhaps we may just see him become the League One Stuart Dallas moving forward.
Where do you think his best position is?
Lee Johnson needs to keep faith in Thorben Hoffmann
Our on-loan Bayern Munich goalkeeper was at fault for Cambridge’s equaliser yesterday, but he recovered well in the second half to deal with an aerial bombardment under very difficult circumstances.
Given his age, lack of experience and most importantly the fact that this is League One level, Hoffmann is going to make mistakes this season, but you have to judge these errors based on their frequency.
Alongside his naive blunder against Rotherham, yesterday’s mistake was massively frustrating, but it doesn’t change the fact that the German has improved the goalkeeping department at this club.
He suits our style of play through his willingness to play out from the back, his kicking is night and day above any other goalkeeper we’ve had at this level and his throwing is also excellent.
Consistently changing goalkeepers is never good for any football team and Sunderland must keep faith in a player who was brought in as a long-term signing.
It is down to Hoffmann to repay that faith and ensure that the frequency of his mistakes remains low, but it is crucial that we stick with him moving forward.
Luke O’Nien is out for three to nine months - what should Sunderland do next?
During his post-match press conference, Lee Johnson announced that Luke O’Nien faces a spell out which could be up to nine months.
It is a major blow as O’Nien has practically been ever-present for Sunderland this season in league football, but it also leaves us massively short in two departments.
As Corry Evans continues to fail to play consecutive matches with various injury concerns, O’Nien’s injury leaves Sunderland with just Dan Neil and Carl Winchester in central midfield.
The duo were impressive yesterday, but heading into a busy December fixture load it is not ideal to only have two options, particularly when Neil has never played a full season worth of games.
Also, with Dennis Cirkin, Denver Hume and Niall Huggins all injured, this leaves Sunderland incredibly short of full-back options and practically forces Johnson to play a 3-back unless he wants to play four centre-halves in a four.
I think Sunderland need to plan for the worst-case as if O’Nien will be out for the rest of the season. Signing a specialist right-back and another central midfielder should be two massive priorities for the recruitment team in January.
Oldham at home next in the cup - is it time to provide more young players with opportunities?
It saddens me to say it as I would have loved to have seen Sunderland defend the EFL Trophy, but as promotion is the ultimate priority, I think it would be sensible for Lee Johnson to make wholesale changes against Oldham.
Sunderland’s current injury list includes Lee Burge, Jordan Willis, Niall Huggins, Dennis Cirkin, Denver Hume, Luke O’Nien, Corry Evans and Aiden McGeady.
Lee Johnson was forced to include Will Harris and Cieran Dunne from the under-23s and with a compact December do Sunderland's already depleted squad really need another 90 minutes?
Considering the new direction the club are looking to move towards, providing more first-team minutes to our best reserve players would help display that Sunderland are a club that provides young players with opportunities.
Players who have impressed in the under-23s or the first team when called upon such as Anthony Patterson, Ollie Younger, Stephen Wearne, Ellis Taylor and Will Harris all deserve chances.
It would also be great to see forgotten faces such as Benji Kimpioka and Arby Xhemajli who have struggled with injury issues.
We could play a full-strength team and we would be the favourites to win, but imagine losing a player like Ross Stewart who we don’t have a like-for-like replacement for?
Would you play a full-strength team or opt for a more youthful Sunderland side?