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Luke O’Nien makes a case for the defence!

Luke O’Nien has played all over the park for Sunderland - but has he found his natural home in the centre of defence?

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Saturday’s win against Millwall was an enjoyable one. It felt like such a long time since we actually put a team to the sword convincingly and going into the final few minutes calm, controlled and comfortable.

Between the scintillating form of Amad Diallo, the intricate and creative mind of Alex Pritchard controlling the second half and the solidity of Danny Baath at the back - it made it a really enjoyable early afternoon at the Stadium of Light.

One thing that I enjoyed particularly was the performance of our defenders in this game. It was clear pregame that Millwall were going to be a difficult opposition for the defence in particular - and at times in the first half, it looked like we were going to encounter a few difficulties with their particularly physical approach to the game.

Sunderland v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Whilst Danny Baath was fantastic, the performance of Luke O’Nien was the one that particularly caught my eye. O’Nien is an interesting case of someone who has found himself played out of his favourite position of central midfield on many occasions during his time at the club.

Being a versatile player can be seen as positive or a negative depending on your point of view. From my perspective, I have always felt that being a versatile player will eventually be a players’ undoing - with the manager always seeking for a better option in that particular position.

Since joining the club, O’Nien has seemed to play in abundance of positions for the team in his five years at the club - defensive midfielder, box to box midfielder, right back, centre back, right centre back in three and I think he may have even played off the striker at some stage.

l like the qualities that the former Wycombe man brings to the team - he is affable, a team player, puts his body on the line and a genuinely nice guy. In truth, every team could do with a Luke O’Nien in their team. He is a positive influence.

With all these things considered, it must be said on the opposite side that his ability as a midfielder is questionable. From my perspective, he has never seemed to nail down a regular berth as a central midfielder - lacking the ability to control the game from midfield and his distribution can be questioned.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

These issues were apparent in League One as early as the first game of the season against Charlton Athletic - and have been still visible at times this season whenever he has played a few minutes in centre of midfield.

With these things in mind, it has been fantastic to see his performances in defence for the team over the last while - and possibly he has found a position where he can nail down as his own.

O’Niens performance on Saturday summarised everything positive that he can bring to the team. His commitment, never say die attitude, putting his body on the line and his hard-hitting tackling showed a man who was enjoying his football.

In truth, the physicality of the game suited Luke. Millwall attempted to put countless balls into the box and make it a tussle. The tussle suited O’Nien and Baath for that matter where the duo stood strong and put their body on the line winning header after header.

O’Nien seems a natural partner for Baath at this time. The pair seem to complement each other quite well - with Baath’s experience and know how matching up well with Luke’s eagerness and pace.

I feel that we have got a player in Luke O’Nien who can solidify his position as central defender in this team. With players like the aforementioned Baath, Bailey Wright and our own manager Tony Mowbray - who was a defender - O’Nien is in good hands to kick on and finally make one position his own.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Ewood Park Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images


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