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Opinion: “Where does Goochy fit in going forward?”

Against Coventry and Bristol City, Gooch demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of his game. Scott Young looks at how he might be utilised as the season unfolds.

As the 2022/2023 season begins to take shape, we have seen both the good and the bad sides of Lynden Gooch’s game, and his performances have been both praised, scrutinised, and the subject of criticism.

Despite Sunderland’s excellent and gritty win at Bristol City on Saturday, he often cut a frustrated figure. After we took the lead through Ellis Simms, Andreas Weimann quickly equalised for Bristol City, scoring a goal in which he played an unfortunate role.

Weimann was left in acres of space in the Sunderland penalty area, and instead of closing him down, Gooch stuck his hand up in protest and vainly appealed for an offside. The replay subsequently showed that Daniel Ballard had in fact played Weimann onside, and as a result, he was able to calmly slot the ball into the back of the net.

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

This was a critical error that could have been avoided, and it wasn’t the only issue on display.

As the match unfolded, Gooch was exposed on a number of occasions, as Bristol City looked to exploit the wide areas and the gaps left by Sunderland’s wing-back system. Going forward, he failed to offer much of a threat, failing to beat his man on a number of occasions.

Overall, his performance was frustrating, and at times it reminded the fans of his struggles under Lee Johnson.

This was in stark contrast to the first match of the season against Coventry, in which Gooch was a threat all day and caused major problems for the away side’s defence, most notably delivering the cross for Jack Clarke’s opening goal.

Against Mark Robins’ team, Gooch’s defence and work rate were also very solid, and it felt as though he had carried on where he left off from the end of last season. After the game, he received the plaudits, and deservedly so.

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

Since Alex Neil’s appointment, Gooch has often performed admirably and played a key role in Sunderland’s promotion last season.

His work rate, effort, and ability to play in a number of roles is something highly valued by Neil, and it was clear that the boss recognised his status as a positive influence in the dressing room, as an academy graduate who has spent many years on Wearside. For this reason, the decision to keep him at the club was logical.

However, the fact that we are still relying on Gooch as a defensive option is a concern, and highlights the need for more depth and competition in the wing-back area.

All the evidence suggests that Sunderland remain active in the transfer market, and that we are in the process of finding an adequate upgrade, or maybe a replacement. If that happens, the American could be a useful and highly effective weapon off the bench, and could certainly play a role for us this season.

Although the consistency and effectiveness of his performances, and his inclusion in the first team are often questioned, his acumen, endeavour and spirit are not.


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