Rich Speight says...
It’s a great choice to have, given that Lee Johnson almost seemed to stumble across the current centre-back pairing in pre-season - personally, I would go for young Fred Alves.
Not only does he appear to fit into the system of play that we’re successfully implementing - playing our from the back and retaining possession wherever possible - but Bailey Wright is becoming a specialist late sub who is introduced in order to secure the three points in the last 10-15 minutes of a match.
Furthermore, if we’re going to be a trusted partner for Premier League teams over the next year or two, then we need to ensure that when opportunities arise, the loanees are given the chance to shine.
I know that this choice carries additional risk, and that losing Flanagan is losing an experienced leader who’s been talking Doyle through games, but I think the reward in terms of introducing another skilled technician onto the field just about outweighs it.
Martin Wanless says...
Bailey Wright simply has to start in place of Flanagan, and I’d be hugely surprised if he didn’t line up alongside Doyle at ‘Highbury’.
Wright’s had more time on the pitch recently anyway, but regardless of that, he brings experience and leadership qualities with him in abundance. And, if Alves was chosen, that's a very clear message being sent out by Lee Johnson to his former Bristol City skipper.
I think Wright’s been tainted in the eyes of some because of his form when he came back into the team last season – he was clearly unfit and was rushed back due to Sanderson’s injury. He’s a very good centre back at this level.
The importance of Wright’s leadership qualities cannot be underestimated either. We’ve got a very young side – particularly in defence.
Cirkin and Doyle have around 10 senior appearances between them while Hoffmann – although having played in the German third tier – is very inexperienced in English football. Adding another inexperienced player in the shape of Alves would be an unnecessary risk.
Alves is going to have a tough job getting into the team – it looks like he’s fourth choice and it’s not a position you can rotate players as easily as you can further up the field.
Of course, a couple of knocks or suspensions could easily see him get a game, and he’s got to be ready to take it. It’s always worth remembering Sanderson didn’t get into the team until Jordan Willis’s injury early in the year, so it’ll be interesting to see how that one plays out. But for Fleetwood at least, Bailey Wright’s a shoo-in.
Damian Brown says...
It would seem strange to me if Lee Johnson opted for Alves over Wright.
Tom Flanagan is hardly the swiftest centre back in the game, so pursuing that particular trait with a relatively untested loanee wouldn’t be the most sensible move here in terms of consistency. How the team moves; how the back line operates; what we demand from a defender currently, all of these things point to a player that’s not only ours, but one that’s proven his worth on many occasions prior to his most recent injuries. Invariably we will bring Wright back into the fold, and one would hope it’s at this given opportunity.
Loans generally strike me as a grouping of favours. We get a little bit something like extra cover or any given singular trait, the player's team get some reprieve from wages, and a slight chance that he’ll develop somewhat with the opportunity for work that he isn’t otherwise going to get at home.
If you’re focusing on another team’s product at the expense of your own there has to be good reason, and so it doesn’t make logical sense to throw Alves into the mix if Wright is waiting in the wings, ready to take up arms again for the good ship Sunderland for the foreseeable future.
Kelvin Beattie says...
It is an indicator of the improvement of the squad that we are able to have this debate.
Wright is an experienced centre back who may not only fill in for the suspended Flanagan, but create a selection dilemma for Lee Johnson with a good performance. Flanagan, of course, has been a pleasant surprise so far this season, with some very steady defensive performances - and I would even acknowledge an improvement in his distribution.
Wright’s experience will be welcome as a replacement.
Whilst I have enjoyed tremendously the performances of Callum Doyle so far this season, he has made errors, most of which thankfully have not been punished.
I would like to see a bit more of Alves - there were aspects of his game against Blackpool that were encouraging, and we need to keep the squad match sharp regarding injuries and suspension. Alves, I believe, can play right back as well.
If Wright does play against Fleetwood, I hope LJ dispenses with his “hold what we have” strategy that has been enacted for the last 10 to 15 minutes of every game we have led in so far this season. The end result of this strategy so far has been three points, but the surrender of territory and the message it has sent to the opposition to attack, is stress-provoking for spectators.
It appears that LJ is aware of this from his own feedback on the issue, but he may want the team to work harder and implement the strategy more effectively.
I am assuming so that we are more of a threat on the break, as we see the game out. We have probably not seen the last of this stressor!
It's nice to be looking forward again, and to be having healthy debates about selection rather than ‘Hobson’s Choice’!
Malc Dugdale says...
While my mind says Wright should start, my views on this new administration shout out to me that we have had such a great outcome from the crop of new players being merged with the new tactics so far, and at times with squad members played in new ways we didn’t think of, trying something else would not be a surprise, or something that may not work out.
Wright is probably next in line, as has been shown with his off the bench introductions, but since his lay-off last season he hasn’t seemed to be the same player to me. The beefy Aussie boss at the back has been replaced by a guy who seems to struggle for aerobic fitness and sharpness when he didn’t before, and his dominance in the air is a shadow of his own recent past.
Maybe he needs games to get that back, I don’t know, but he isn’t the old Bailey right now.
With multiple options - including new and old signings to choose from (such as Arby, who is almost fit again now) - I wouldn’t be surprised if Wright starts, but then others get a go in the half dozen games to come.
The league isn’t won in the autumn, nor is an automatic promotion or the play-off places. Whatever the coach needs to do now to understand his best centre back pairing (and the first and second swap in options) he should do now rather than later.
All that said, with young Doyle the opposite pairing, we have pace, play-out ability and loads of energy and fitness, so maybe another more experienced pair of boots next to the wonder kid would be wise. I really don't know. What I do know is it is great to have so many options and problems of this type, after half a season with five centre backs injured and Luke playing there with another great young prospect for a raft of last term.
These are good issues to have, so let's make sure we learn from them ready for the forty-plus games to come.