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Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: “Could Sunderland utilise Jewison Bennette as a central striker?”

After successive 0-0 draws, we need to find a remedy for our goalscoring issues, so could playing Bennette through the middle be a viable solution?

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gav says...

Chris made an excellent point on the podcast we recorded after the game, about how the thing we missed up front wasn’t just a goalscoring touch, but a player who can actually lead the line and hold it up when we need to take a bit of pressure off.

To me, that’s what’s most important here - which of our players can do that?

Contrary to popular opinion, I actually thought Amad played pretty well against Blackpool and I think he’ll only get better once he gets more minutes and gains a bit of confidence. Of the lads we have, he’s best suited to it.

Bennette is an out-and-out winger and I’m not really sure he’s played as a forward for his country - but even if he did, from the little I’ve seen of him it’s clear he’s very much a winger.

His best assets as a player are his pace and ability to beat a man, and physically I don’t think he’d succeed up there. He wouldn’t get the time or space to do what he’s good at through the middle, which is why I think it’d be a bad idea for now.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Kevin Barker says...

Yes!

At half time against Blackpool, I felt his pace and directness might’ve opened up the stubborn Blackpool defence. He gives defenders something different to think about, as the majority of our forward players are tricky but don’t have the explosive pace he seems to possess.

Bennette suits fast, counter-attacking football which is where we have been at our best this season, and as good technically as Amad is, I’m not yet convinced that he can lead the line.

Bennette is very raw and will take time to learn that role, but he’s already shown signs that he can be very effective.

Get him on, I say, because even if he loses the ball he will unsettle defences and leave space for other players.


Kingsley Reavley says...

No.

From what I’ve seen, his best position is wide on the left, and playing him centrally would negate a lot of his best attributes.

Tony Mowbray’s comments after the Blackpool game, when he expressed frustration about Bennette drifting inside too much, suggests that he’s seen as more of a winger by the coaching staff.

The fact he’s only eighteen, speaks no English and is of slight build also doesn’t help, and the reality is most clubs use a big lad like Ellis Simms and Ross Stewart for a reason.

There’s also a big difference between playing up top in Costa Rica games and in the rough and tumble of the Championship, and I don’t think it would be fair to throw the lad to the wolves and potentially destroy his confidence if he gets bullied for ninety minutes.

I’m not certain what the answer is, but evidently what we’re doing now isn’t working.

Could we try Leon Dajaku and just instruct him to remain central? Apparently in the German youth setup and for his younger age group teams his natural position was a striker.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Mitch Marshall says...

I agree largely with what Kingsley has said.

At this moment, Bennette is clearly seen as winger by Tony Mowbray, and justifiably so, given that many of his most exciting moments have been when he has driven down the wing to get to the byline using his pace and skill.

Against Blackpool, we saw the pitfalls of playing someone who is used to being a winger as a lone striker. Amad Diallo clearly has talent, but he didn’t look cut out to lead the line on his own, as his speed and trickery are better used out wide.

It may be worth trying Bennette as a centre forward, given the need to find someone to play there over the coming weeks. He isn’t starting games, but he has shown that he can be a calm finisher, and that he has the pace to stretch defences in the right situations.

I’m not sure that the end result will be much better than playing the likes of Diallo or Alex Pritchard up top in our current system. None of them appears to have the finishing ability of Ross Stewart, and that’s hardly surprising.

Ultimately Tony Mowbray has been both blessed and, at this particular moment, somewhat cursed by a having squad full of players who are all good at the same thing.

Leading the line doesn’t seem to be one of those things, so rather than fighting it and shoehorning someone into that role, we might just have to accept it and be a team of striker-stricken wonders in the meantime.


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