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Does a fully fit Bailey Wright come straight back into Sunderland’s starting XI?

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Luke O’Nien and Dion Sanderson have formed a formidable, clean sheet-keeping partnership in the last month or so, but... does Bailey Wright come straight back into the defence when he’s fit enough to play?

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Gary Engel says... YES!

From the number of goals scored from set-peices it’s very clear how much emphasis Johnson places on strategy and working things out before games. Therefore, it stands to reason that Bailey Wright and Dion Sanderson will have worked a lot together in training. A fully fit Bailey Wright is probably the best center-half in this division, and his inclusion can only be an asset.

Sunderland have looked a little nervous at the back in the last couple of matches. A calm head defensively, able to hit the ground running, in the all-important remaining fixtures could prove the difference between a third-placed finish and going up automatically.

Wright’s inclusion would also free up Luke O’Nien to finally play in midfield, giving us, what I believe could be an added dimension as probably our best box-to-box midfielder.

Jimmy Lowson agrees...

Yes. Let’s not overthink this one.

As Gary outlined, Bailey Wright is really good at this level. Beyond that, O’Nien continuing at center-back could be the difference between automatic promotion and the play-offs.

He’s been rubbish in our last three games and it feels like we’re a much less confident, attack-minded team, when we have such an obvious Achilles heel teams can exploit. O’Nien rightfully got plaudits for his excellent showings at Fratton Park and Wembley, but in the long term he doesn’t have the concentration levels to play in a back four.

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Paul Fletcher says YES.... but....

I would say he comes straight back in, but not at the expense of O’Nien or Sanderson. I’d like to see us play a back three with Bailey Wright as the organiser in the centre, Dion Sanderson to his right and Luke O’Nien to his left.

I love to see both Sanderson and O’Nien be aggressive in defence and attack. By that I mean trying to win the ball back quickly and not let the opposition forwards settle on the ball or have time to turn. Having Wright effectively ‘sweeping’ in behind them gives us that extra insurance to fall back on if they do get turned.

Both O’Nien and Sanderson are brilliant on the ball and having them bringing it out from the back and potentially joining in attacks on the overlap is both an exciting prospect for us as fans and a worrying prospect for the opposition.

None of our three options at left-back (assuming Hume will be back in contention soon) are particularly great defensively but they’re all decent going forward (better than decent in Hume’s case).

Similarly, on the right-hand side, I think Power is a great option as a wing-back. He has plenty of energy to get up and down the field and he can deliver good crosses when he gets in a position to do so.

That would be my defensive formation and line-up of choice going into the remainder of the season.

Doncaster Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie is no contrarian...

Yes - he comes straight back in alongside Sanderson, whether it’s a back four or a back three. O’Nien has proved his versatility and appetite for the battle, and he can slot in just about anywhere (including left-back if Vokins is not trusted). Power for me is nailed on at right-back unless he is up against an absolute flyer.

Wright and Sanderson are our strongest central pairing - the combination of experience, pace and raw athleticism with aerial ability seals the deal.