Sean Brown says…
A very confident and comfortable performance
The Lads were particularly at ease in the middle of the park, and Ross Stewart’s return to making a nuisance of himself ahead of the midfield brought further calm and space.
Corry Evans’ no-nonsense approach, which saw him combine well with a refreshed Dan Neil - on and off the ball - was better than we’ve seen for a little while.
New signings at the back walking straight in.
Ballard - and later Alese - looked equally as confident and comfortable as the rest of the side with some nice challenges made by the former particularly, and yesterday’s surprise reveal Aji Alese - fresh from plenty of minutes in the West Ham preseason - settling in alongside his new teammates with ease.
Take it easy, Leon!
Leon Dajaku could do with calming down slightly, but it’s just a friendly so I’m not really that fussed.
The ongoing heatwave
It’s just too f**king hot, and I’ve ran out of beer.
Mitch Marshall says…
Anthony Patterson continues to impress
With goalkeeping backup thin on the ground, Sunderland need to know that they can rely on Anthony Patterson to make the step up to Championship level.
While he wasn’t tested to his limits against Dundee United, I am increasingly impressed by his mastery of the basics. He made a reaction save to tip the ball over the bar in the second half, which might have looked simple, but demonstrated that he is still razor-sharp after the summer break.
His command of the area is also particularly impressive for a young goalkeeper, and he reacted well to a couple of dodgy back-passes, too. A job well done for Patto.
Encouraging signs from Dan Neil
Another academy graduate, Dan Neil slipped out of the starting eleven that secured promotion last season, as Alex Neil opted for physicality and experience during the League One run-in.
Today, though, he was back from the start, and his pressing, sharpness in the tackle and progressive passing were all welcome.
In a higher league, where teams have greater technical ability, I think Neil could shine if given the opportunity, helping him to develop, and helping the team to break down opposition defences.
The Dajaku question
Leon Dajaku has had two big chances to make an impression on Alex Neil and the Sunderland fans this week, in games against Roma and Dundee United.
His pass to Dennis Cirkin helped to set up one of Sunderland’s goals on Saturday, as he tried to atone for the glaring mistake he made against Roma, when he opted to shoot instead of squaring the ball to Jack Clarke, who would almost certainly have scored.
Despite the bright flashes he showed against Dundee, however, I remain rather unconvinced by his holistic contribution to the team.
At times, especially in the second half, Dajaku left Cirkin exposed to overlapping runs from United’s right-back, and although this might be attributed to a lack of fitness, it doesn’t bode well for life in the Championship, where small mistakes can be harshly punished.
Dajaku’s link-up play with Alex Pritchard also left something to be desired, with Pritchard appearing to be frustrated with his left winger at times.
I hope he proves me wrong, but currently I think Dajaku may prove to be a frustrating player rather than one who delivers his full potential in red and white.
I thought our defence excelled on Saturday, with new additions Dan Ballard and Aji Alese showing their worth with some last-ditch blocks.
However, the fact they had to do this quite often suggests that having only one defensively-minded midfielder out of five on the pitch, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, could leave us exposed against stronger opposition.
In transition, Dundee found a fair amount of success, and this would likely be highlighted even more in competitive Championship games.
Alex Neil will have to work out how to harness the qualities of expansive players like Dan Neil, who I praised above for his performance today, with the need to find solidity as we adjust to the Championship.
We are spoiled for choice in terms of attacking midfield talent, with Elliot Embleton not even getting on the pitch today, but the likes of Jay Matete may prove just as important in providing midfield ballast this season.
Phil West says...
Alex Pritchard shows his class once again
The former Huddersfield playmaker was one of our most talismanic figures last season, and on the evidence of this game, he may well be one of the key cogs in the Sunderland machine in the Championship.
Pritchard’s performance was superb. He constantly sought to get on the ball, to make things happen, and create openings for his teammates. That trademark composure and ability to pick passes was displayed beautifully at times, and he breezed through the game in his usual calm manner.
If he can continue to improve and find even more within himself, the Championship could be made for him.
Dan Neil’s upturn in form
The argument that ‘Neil doesn’t rate Neil’ (if you will) has been a long-running one, with the young midfielder barely featuring during our end-of-season run.
However, I really do believe that he has a future at the club under Alex Neil, and performances like this will do his cause no harm at all. He remains on the slight side, physically, but technique-wise, he has a lot to offer, and in the Championship, where time on the ball is more plentiful, there is no reason that he cannot thrive.
A lack of cutting edge beyond Ross Stewart
It was good to see Stewart return to the team after his midweek absence, and although he turned in a solid performance on Saturday, it is common knowledge that we are heavily reliant on the big Scot to shoulder the goalscoring burden.
Leon Dajaku could play as a makeshift striker if needed, but at least two speedy, agile and prolific strikers are needed to augment the threat posed by Stewart. Troy Parrott and Nathan Broadhead have both been linked with moves (the latter after his superb loan spell) and both would be welcome additions to our squad.
Hopefully that is an area that can be addressed in the coming days, and I’m confident that it will be.
Another hit and miss performance from Leon Dajaku
‘Awful’ and ‘out of his depth’ were just two pieces of criticism that were thrown in Dajaku’s direction on Saturday, and to a point, it was understandable.
It was another perplexingly erratic performance from the German winger, and although I do feel that can add value to the squad, he simply has to smooth off the rough edges to his game, play with a clear mind, and apply himself on a daily basis to improve as a player.
He has a fabulous chance to make an impression at Sunderland, and only he can take that chance.