clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

Filed under:

Starting XI: Who will Alex Neil pick in his first outing as Sunderland head coach?

The new fella’s had just one training session, but will have been watching recent games closely.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Finally, we have a new head coach, and after throwing away six points with their dithering, the club will be hoping Alex Neil will be able to get us back on track quick smart.

While he’s only had one training session with the lads, he’ll undoubtedly have studied the past few games and will have some ideas about how to shore up our fragile defence, and help us get back to winning ways.

Here’s my guess at what he might do this afternoon.


Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

With Hoffmann seemingly ruled out again, it’ll be Anthony Patterson in nets again. While he had a decent enough game on Tuesday he doesn’t fill me with confidence, but hopefully some regular football will see him grow in stature.

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

Defence: Trai Hume, Bailey Wright, Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin

Defensively we’ve been woeful recently, and we’ve been completely left in the lurch by some awful decisions by the football management in the transfer window. That said, a positive from Tuesday night was the performance of Trai Hume, who looked comfortable and in the second half showed glimpses of his attacking prowess. There are rumours that Danny Batth is carrying a knock, and if that’s the case we’ve got to hope Bailey Wright is fit again to take his place at the back. Callum Doyle could do with a rest and Cirkin hasn’t yet recaptured his early-season form – although he shows signs of a decent understanding with Clarke – but given our only option is someone who’s never played a league game for us and has been injured for the past 18 months, they’re going to need to play through.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Trai Hume
Decent debut - Hume
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Jay Matete, Carl Winchester, Dan Neil

Defensively we’ve been awful recently, but that isn’t the fault of the defence alone – and we’ve got to look at other ways of giving the team more solidity. One way Alex Neil might look at doing this is adding a body into the centre of midfield. I thought Jay Matete looked good against Cheltenham, particularly in the first half – however Corry Evans isn’t suited to playing alongside him. I’d like to see Winchester partnering Matete, with Dan Neil returning to the side in a role that allows him a bit more attacking freedom and space to get on the ball. It would be a departure from what we’ve done this season (although we did play this way away at QPR) and it would be different from Alex Neil’s preferred formation, which apparently 4-2-3-1, but I’d be tempted to try this.

Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Matete impressed in defeat
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Attacking midfield: Alex Pritchard, Jack Clarke

If we add a body into the deeper midfield, we lose a body here of course, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Alex Neil spent a lot of money on Pritchard when he was Norwich manager, and I think he’ll see him as a crucial player in League One. On the other side, Jack Clarke looks a lovely player, and has got to start the game.

Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Pritchard scored a great free kick on Tuesday
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Striker: Ross Stewart

Has looked a bit out of sorts recently, but I can’t see Alex Neil not playing Stewart today, unless he’s got a knock!

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

OPINION!

Looking Ahead To December: What’s coming up for Sunderland this month?

MATCH PREVIEWS!

Take Five – the key questions ahead of tomorrow’s clash against Millwall

OPINION!

The Sunderland boys are back!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report