Did Aiden O’Brien’s two-match absence display his importance to Sunderland?
Aiden O’Brien is a highly-debated member of Sunderland’s starting XI, but you could argue his recent absence has proved just how useful he can be in the second striker role alongside Charlie Wyke.
The ex-Millwall striker has been criticised for his poor goal record, and rightly so, four goals in 24 League One matches is nothing to shout about, particularly when he dropped down from the Championship.
Having said that, his partnership with Wyke and his tireless work ethic has led to the Irishman clinching a starting place under Lee Johnson.
Last week against Lincoln, Johnson trialed Carl Winchester further forward, but that simply failed to produce anything and Sunderland also struggled for large periods against Accrington when Wyke was isolated without O’Brien.
Although Sunderland did not create enough clear-cut chances yesterday, I always feel we are more dangerous when Wyke is accompanied by someone.
Given Johnson’s reluctance to start Chris Maguire, and Lynden Gooch’s inconsistency, it seems O’Brien is the manager’s preferred choice in that role.
New signing Ross Stewart is an option, but he seems more of a like-for-like replacement for Charlie Wyke rather than someone who would play behind the main striker.
Overall, bar a missed opportunity in the second half, Aiden O’Brien scored the winning goal and perhaps proved that he is more important than many Sunderland fans may think.
He is not someone who will steal the headlines week after week, but he may just end up being a very important part of what will hopefully be a league winning team.
‘ , .’— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) March 27, 2021
Watch the full interview with @AidenObrien22... pic.twitter.com/kDsQo6qK5b
Is Lynden Gooch doing enough to keep out the injured Jordan Jones?
With Jordan Jones closing in on a return, and Aiden McGeady in fine form, is Lynden Gooch at risk of losing his starting place?
The American international scored Sunderland’s winning goal at Wembley against Tranmere recently, but I think it is fair to say he has been unable to match his offensive performance levels from last season.
Gooch was an integral player under Phil Parkinson last season, scoring ten goals from the wing as part of a three-man attack where he and Chris Maguire joined Charlie Wyke.
The 25-year-old stated his intention to play in the forward positions, but this season he has been less emphatic in front of goal, scoring just four goals in all competitions.
This is largely due to him playing deeper, often covering at wing-back, which arguably has led to his assists increasing, as only Aiden McGeady has created more goals this season.
Gooch thrives in wide areas where he can attack defenders one-vs-one and deliver crosses, but he appears to have lost confidence in his shooting and has struggled to put in consistent performances.
This has been a long-term issue for the American, as under Jack Ross he created eight goals by the end of November before failing to assist a goal for the rest of the season.
The issue now for Gooch is that McGeady has returned as a crucial player, plus everyone on Wearside wants to see Jordan Jones play again after his spectacular display against Portsmouth earlier this month.
This means he must maintain high-performance levels, but yesterday he struggled to influence the match and failed to convert a one-vs-one opportunity - he was given a 5/10 in Gav’s post-match ratings.
Gooch must improve his consistency levels to remain in Sunderland’s starting XI, as right now it seems a matter of time before Jones comes back to take his place.
Joey Barton’s unbeaten managerial record against Sunderland is over – doesn't it feel good?
Since Sunderland’s relegation to League One in 2018, we have developed some horrendous bogey teams and created some awful records, but one of the most frustrating was being unable to beat Joey Barton.
The ex-Newcastle midfielder is a box office, notorious character and a grade A wind-up merchant, who has thoroughly enjoyed getting under Sunderland fans’ skin over the years.
Being unable to beat his Fleetwood sides for over two and a half years was embarrassing, but what made it more frustrating was having to listen to Barton’s endless comments about Sunderland’s downfall.
Admittedly, anything other than a win today for Sunderland would have been a poor result, but I believe many on Wearside would have craved three points just to ensure Barton could not continue his run against Sunderland.
By defeating a bogey team in Burton Albion and beating Portsmouth at Fratton Park for the first time in the 21st century, and finally winning at Wembley, Lee Johnson’s Sunderland continue to break embarrassing club records.
Johnson’s current Sunderland team are consistently winning games that the club would have previously lost or drawn under previous leadership, and the team are starting to develop a proper winning mentality.
Beating Bristol Rovers is nothing worth bragging about, but I thoroughly enjoyed Sunderland being on the victorious side of a fixture against Joey Barton.
Despite one salty comment about how much Sunderland allegedly paid for Charlie Wyke, the ex-Fleetwood boss unusually did not mention much about The Black Cats in his post-match interview.
He did however make an interesting comment about referees having an agenda against Bristol Rovers...
️ Joey Barton reflects on this afternoon's defeat to @SunderlandAFC...#BristolRovers pic.twitter.com/QHHweV2uXL— Bristol Rovers (@Official_BRFC) March 27, 2021