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Blackpool v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round

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Talking Points: Sunderland’s dispatch of Blackpool means Johnson’s faith in youth is justified

Cup matches might not always give the best indication of how a team is shaping up - but this time you could learn more than usual.

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dan Neil could be Lee Johnson’s star hiding in plain sight

August is not yet out but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a man who barely got a look in last season has made the biggest impression on the pitch so far this term.

Dan Neil’s emergence has, so far, been a delight to witness. One of the most enjoyable things about watching football is seeing a player do something you didn’t see coming. Julio Arca would do it regularly, but examples since then have been few and far between.

However the 19-year-old’s pass for Aidan O’Brien’s first goal was nothing short of spectacular; Neil showed incredible vision to thread the ball through, and it’s not something many players have in their skillset, and must be a nightmare to defend.

Continue on like this and it won’t be a question of whether Neil gets in the team, but when he is offered a new long-term deal.

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

Has Aiden O’Brien staked a claim to start on Saturday?

He’s a man who has divided opinion since his move from Millwall, but there were no flies on him tonight.

Aidan O’Brien led the line superbly, and bagged a superb hattrick (is there anything but?). However, his movement and finishing suggests he’s sharp, and ready to take his chance when League One resumes.

It’s clear - and has, in truth been for some time - that Lynden Gooch needs competition to keep him on his game. So a confident O’Brien breathing down his neck could be just what is needed. Not as a direct replacement, but as part of a slight system change.

Either way, Lee Johnson has a dilemma on his hands going into Wycombe on Saturday.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Young players show there’s still much to learn... but it’s okay to make mistakes

It was Callum Doyle’s slack pass that set Blackpool away for their equaliser; you get the feeling that given the way he has performed so far in a red and white shirt that he won’t be repeating his error again any time soon.

Yes, it’s been said before, our #6 is only 17 years old; if anyone wants a sober reminder of how old they are, Howard Wilkinson was sacked six months before he was born.

There are rarely good mistakes to make, but this was a good game - possibly the best - to make it in. It was also an error that was a result of forward-thinking intent.

It would be very interesting to ask Tom Flanagan or Bailey Wright the question “what have you taught Doyle since he arrived?” It would not be beyond the realms of possibility to imagine the answer being “not a lot.”

The way in which Doyle responded to the aforementioned error was superb - setting off the move which led to Sunderland’s winner following one of his now trademark forays forward. It showed that he clearly hadn’t been affected by events five minutes prior - and he wasn’t willing to abandon his instincts.

Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Maintain that winning feeling - or adding another fixture to a congested schedule?

Would a defeat have been that bad? No, of course not.

But guess what, given that a largely second-string Sunderland team - or at least a team that needed game time - played with such verve and fluidity at times, it is clear that there is an ethos running through the squad right now which runs from top to bottom.

This is also a group of players that need as many minutes as possible. Fixture congestion has been an issue in seasons gone by because it has placed extra pressure on aging legs.

Not so this year: let’s just sit back and embrace the victory!


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