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Swansea v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: “Is it time for Sunderland to use Jack Clarke as a striker?”

Clarke scored a well-taken goal against Swansea on Saturday, and his pace can certainly trouble defenders, so could he help solve our goalscoring issues?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Kingsley Reavley says…

Yes, without a doubt, and you just have to look at the stark difference between the two halves at Swansea to see why.

One was the worst we’ve played all season and during the other, we looked far more dynamic and carried a threat.

Playing without a recognised striker may have worked for Manchester City and Barcelona in the past but the reality is we’re Sunderland, we’re in the Championship, and we need a focal point.

Around the time Jack Clarke signed, I listened to an interview where he said he’s equally comfortable playing through the middle as he is out wide, after playing there in youth football, so the experience is there. He’s of a decent height and build, and he’s good at linking play, as well as being quick, agile and a good finisher.

What we’re doing now isn’t working, hence a solitary goal in three games, so I would put Clarke through the middle and give Jewison Bennette a start on the left wing.

Sunderland v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Michael Dunne says…

I think Clarke’s game is far more effective from the wing.

He seems to occupy defenders, which leads to him being doubled up on, and I do wonder if his impact would be stifled if he was playing up front on his own. He isn’t a natural finisher and he would possibly be outmuscled.

I would be more inclined to play someone like Jewison Bennette- even if it’s a bit early for him- or even Leon Dajaku as I would hate to lose the impact Clarke could provide from the wing.

It is something that has to be looked at, because Sunderland are looking fairly toothless at present.

Kelvin Beattie says…

It is a bit of a conundrum.

Clarke took his goal well against Swansea, but I do not think many would argue that wide on the left appears to be his preferred position.

Sensing that the ‘false nine’ experiment has run its course for now, we need someone to lead the attack. Amad Diallo has had a go and showed some neat touches against Preston, but not so much against Blackpool or Swansea. Leon Dajaku has had limited game time so far this season and has not really set the grass on fire, but we have seen his pace and shooting power.

Some have called for Jewison Benette to be used as a striker- a heavy responsibility for one so young.

He has been fun to watch when hitting the byline down his wing, so let’s just keep him out wide for now, or at least until he is well established.

I would keep Clarke in his preferred position and give Diallo another go, although I might be tempted to interchange these two throughout the game. I would like to see our midfielders getting beyond and through the defensive line a bit more, to support the forwards and to create uncertainty for our opponents.

Clearly we are going to miss a forward of Ross Stewart’s calibre, and although the intriguing snippet dropped by Tom White on Friday night is not going to help us till after Qatar, I see this gap as a cracking opportunity for one of these young lads to step up and if I am any judge, Diallo could be that man.

Swansea v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says…

This is a funny one, because during his early days on Wearside, when he seemed to struggle out wide, there was more than a fair argument for him to play more centrally. Those days are long gone, however.

Wigan will be a stern test, and like every game this season, we need players on it from the first minute to last, and that includes playing the best players in their best positions - which for Clarke is almost certainly out wide.

His exploits down the left this season have been one of the standout factors so far and removing him from this area is a risk not worth taking.

Whilst Wigan will no doubt be planning for Clarke starting wide, and the idea of catching them out by playing him centrally is an exciting one, I can’t help but feel if Tony Mowbray is keen to throw the cat amongst the pigeons, he may as well start with Jewison Bennette.

Clarke’s worth out wide isn’t just in an attacking sense, thanks to his tireless energy and eagerness to do the dirty work, too.

For me, whether he should or shouldn’t play centrally isn’t a matter of his ability to do so, but more a question of whether moving him from the wider channels robs Peter to pay Paul.

His scintillating start to the season and quality on the ball would be hard to replace, with his work ethic cementing such a notion, so for me, Clarke should stay wide, for the betterment and balance of the team.


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