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Roker Roundtable: How big an impact can Leon Dajaku make next season?

The young German winger will remain at Sunderland after a clause in his loan deal was activated. Can he force his way into Alex Neil’s plans for 2022/2023?

Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

For me, the Championship is more suited to flair players like Dajaku, so I think there is every chance Alex Neil will give him some chances this next season to come.

He burst onto the scene with a lot of promise before we changed coaches in February, and despite some pretty impressive games for us, I agree with some of my RR colleagues that he has much to learn about defending and tracking back when needed.

With Lynden Gooch looking more comfortable at right back and Aiden McGeady no longer at the club, we do have room for options.

I also think we have to assume that Alex Neil could have vetoed the purchase if he really wanted to, as many contracts have an ‘option to buy’ if a set number of appearances is hit, rather than it being a forced transaction, but without the detail it’s hard to judge.

We do know that the coach likes a mixture of experience and young talent, and you are arguably better off with a known young talent than an unknown one recruited from elsewhere.

If he makes a few appearances and does well, great. If he does the same and makes us some money as we sell him on later, that’s fine too.

If he runs seventy yards and bangs the odd one in the top bin like he did last season, and develops ready for even bigger things to come, it’s a win-win.

Options are what we need and he gives us a few- including for cup games, so I think he has a shot at showing what he can do.

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

Gav says…

It’s very easy to skirt around this one, but for me, this was a bit of a balls up on Kristjaan Speakman’s part.

Leon Dajaku is a decent player, but I was less than convinced by his ability to play regularly in League One, so I’m not exactly skipping around knowing we’ve just had to shell out over a million on him due to a technicality.

To be honest, I don’t really know what to make of him.

He scored some canny goals last season and at one stage I felt like he might make a better second striker than a winger, but I was also there in person at the Stadium of Light to watch him against Burnley U23s where he put in one of the worst, half-arsed performances I saw from a senior player all season.

You don’t come through the system at Bayern Munich if you don’t have some ability, and we definitely saw flashes of it last season, but it concerns me deeply that Alex Neil largely ignored him at the end of the season. Does he even want him?

Also, given that we’ve spent money on him, I’d imagine that the club will want to see some return, so it’s not like we’ll just ship him straight back out elsewhere.

What does that mean for someone like Jack Diamond, a player who plays in the same position and has gone out and proven himself on loan last season? What does it mean for our transfer budget and the rest of our business this summer?

That all said...

Like all of our players, I think that Dajaku deserves a clean slate and a fresh start in pre-season, but the circumstances around his signing mean to me that he has to come in and show exactly why we’ve paid money for him.

If he hasn’t started already, he needs to be putting the work in before he comes back for training. On the first day back I want him to be the freshest, the fittest, and the most hungry player on the training ground - he ought to go in there and show Alex Neil why he deserves to be there, and deserves to be part of the squad for our first season back in the Championship.

It might sound like I’m being unfair or judging him harshly, but I want to see Leon succeed here - we all do - and for that to happen he needs to put some extra work in on the training ground and to prove himself all over again.

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

Andrew Smithson says…

Having had a year to get to grips with the culture, and perhaps feeling like he now has a point to prove, I expect Dajaku to come back after the summer raring to go.

As for Alex Neil, I get the impression he is pretty pragmatic and so unlikely to bomb anybody out unless there is a good reason to.

He is adept at analysing the opposition and making in-game changes, so if he thinks the moment is right, I can see him giving Dajaku a go. He is absolutely rapid, which is an attribute that could come in handy.

We don't have spare money to lash about this summer, so it would be a shame to overlook the players that are already here without giving them a chance.

It may come in pre-season friendlies or during early League Cup games, but Dajaku has shown flashes of quality already and hopefully there is more to come.

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

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