He’s now firmly established as our number one- just over a year since playing in the National League for Notts County - but recently, some fans have observed that the performance level of Anthony Patterson has dipped in comparison to earlier in the season.
First and foremost, there’s no doubt that he’s got a bright future ahead of him.
His shot-stopping and reflexes are superb and he obviously sets very high standards. However, there’s an argument to be made that certain areas of his game haven’t quite developed at the same rate.
One big test during Patterson’s fledging Sunderland career was last season’s dramatic 3-3 draw at Wycombe. We looked on course for victory at Adams Park after Ross Stewart’s brace, before Gareth Ainsworth’s team equalised in the 98th minute.
From a Sunderland point of view, the problem that day came in the shape of the home side’s set pieces.
Yes, it’s very much Wycombe’s style, but Patterson really struggled with the presence of the likes of Sam Vokes, and if you fast forward to the present day, command of his area is still a weakness.
He needs to be stronger and meaner when coming for the ball, and to be unafraid of hurting anyone when doing so.
Of the last five goals we’ve conceded, three have come from crosses into the box, and against West Brom and Blackburn in particular, Patterson was caught in no-man’s land. I’ve got no doubt that he’ll improve, not least because he’s only twenty two, but the mistakes need to be minimised in our push for playoffs.
Distribution is another facet of Patterson’s game that could be better, too.
We rarely seem to score or to create dangerous opportunities on the break from opposing teams’ set pieces. In fact, we’re often better off when building from the back because it doesn’t require an accurate forty or fifty-yard pass from the goalkeeper.
Against Shrewsbury, this was where Alex Bass shone. On two or three occasions, he wasted no time in getting the ball to Patrick Roberts, Jewison Bennette, Jack Clarke, or whoever else happened to be on the wing.
Moving forward, the club has two clear options regarding our goalkeeping situation.
As the January transfer window continues, we could sign someone who would push Patterson harder than Bass is currently doing. This could kick Patto into a higher gear and help to accelerate his development.
Signing a third goalkeeper could also result in Bass would be loaned out in order to play regularly. When he was signed in August, eyebrows were raised and after 180 minutes of senior football, a goal in a reserve game and no clean sheets later, they still are.
Alternatively, the club could simply stick with the two goalkeepers we’ve got and continue to trust them.
Patterson seems like a ‘confidence player’ and if he retains the faith of Tony Mowbray, he’ll continue to feel like a valuable member of the team.
It’s important to remember that he pulled off some top-class saves to help get us promoted last season and he’s often done the same during 2022/2023.
Nobody doubts his ability, but it’s simply going to be a matter of continued improvement in order to become an even better goalkeeper than he already is. After all, you don’t win the North East Football Writers’ Association’s Young Player of the Year for nothing!