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Roker Roundtable: Should Sunderland start Ellis Simms against Preston?

We have scored five goals in two matches without an ‘orthodox’ striker, so could Tony Mowbray have a selection dilemma if Simms is fit for next Saturday?

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Gav says...

I’d stick with the false nine system, as daft as that might seem to some.

If this was an opponent who play a more free-flowing style of football, I’d be advocating bringing back Simms, but Preston are standing out, and some might say for the wrong reasons.

Defensively they are solid - they have the best record in the league for a reason.

Simms is very static when playing the lone striker role, and I suspect the Preston defenders would eat him up. They’re ‘kick it and head’ it types, and I don’t think Simms thrives against defenders who are old-fashioned and look to dominate the physical and aerial battle.

I think the fluidity of the false nine system will bamboozle most defences, and given that means we’ll look to hurt them down the sides and from deep, that could draw their slow yet defensively proficient players out, creating gaps in behind.

Frankly, I think whilst Preston’s defenders are clearly brilliant, facing a side without a recognised focal point through the middle would be their worst nightmare.

I have full faith in the Lads and I think that given Ross Stewart’s fitness issues, there’s no need to rush Simms back. Even if it was only a slight knock, I’d be taking my time with him, particularly when the system we’ve played in the last few games has worked so well.

If it’s not working, we have the option to bring Simms on later in the game, and I’m sure he’d have an impact - perhaps he’d be more useful when playing up against tired legs, as opposed to starting and struggling to make an impression like he has recently.

Have faith in what is working, particularly since the opponent next weekend is a side that struggle to score goals but have shown themselves as more than adequate at coping with the best attackers that the Championship has to offer.

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Kev Barker says...

I think he should and will play against Preston. He gives the team a focal point, and when on form, he offers a goal threat from crosses and set plays.

He will occupy defenders and our multitude of attacking talent can play off him in a similar way to the last couple of games. The overall style shouldn’t change too much, and there’s no need to play long balls. Keep it simple, play to feet and he can bring the players around him into the game.

If he can find the scoring touch he had when he first joined, we can take six points from the next two home games, and it will allow for some rotation of our forwards so the younger lads don’t get burned out.

Longer term, once we have everyone fit and available, our squad going into the notoriously difficult Christmas period post-World Cup will be full of options.

Andrew Smithson says...

It’s a tricky one, and I have to admit that I’ve not seen Preston North End play this season, so I’m not sure how the opposition will impact Tony Mowbray’s thinking.

On one hand, you don’t want to tinker with the side just for the sake of it, but you do also have to consider what Simms can bring to the team and whether a bit of height and physicality could be useful at both ends of the pitch.

We’ve done well going forward, but longer term, teams might identify set pieces as a way of putting us under pressure now that we have fewer big men to call on.

We are in a position where we don’t have to rush him back too quickly, though, and with Ross Stewart also unavailable, it would make sense to be as cautious as possible and wait until the time is right.

Simms has had a good start to his spell here and he’ll be hoping to pick that up quickly, so it will be a case of managing it as best we can and seeing how things pan out.

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Ian Bendelow says...

If it was almost any other team but Preston, I’d say yes, simply because Simms is a player who, like Charlie Wyke before him, needs to play regularly in order for us to see the best of him.

However, Preston are extremely solid defensively and as such, you suspect they would relish swallowing up a lone striker like Simms. Players such as Lindsay and Storey are six-foot plus players, who would prefer the physical battle, and this is what they have thrived on so far.

What they might not relish the prospect of is coming up against pacy, technical players with a low centre of gravity, and it just so happens that we have an abundance of that type of player in our squad.

It must be said that even with Simms as a focal point, Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard and other will still be able to cause major problems.

If I was Mowbray, I would stick with the false nine system for now, but with a view to pairing Simms and Stewart at the earliest opportunity.

Malc Dugdale says...

I’d give him a go for a couple of reasons.

He has had a dip in form since a ripper of a start, but if he doesn’t play, he can’t score, and a confident scoring striker is what we need until Ross Stewart returns.

In addition, Preston may have prepared to play against a false nine type of attack, given our situation prior to the international break. If we are too predictable, we may lose an edge against a team who are clearly decent at the back.

If we play Simms and he doesn’t do as well as we hope, we know that we can change to the false nine system promptly and smoothly, even mid-game, as we did when he went down with his foot injury.

In terms of the element of surprise, building options while Stewart gets fit, and helping the player himself, he starts against North End for me.

Get back among the goals, Ellis, the more the merrier!

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