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Could defensive changes be on the cards for Sunderland?

With the likes of Dennis Cirkin and Aji Alese coming back into the picture, will Tony Mowbray have some tough decisions to make? We asked our writers for their thoughts

Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Gav says…

It all depends on the circumstances.

I’m still not sure of the extent of Niall Huggins’ injury but regardless, we have to learn from the past and what landed us in this position in the first place.

This is particularly important in the case of Alese, who was rushed back for the playoffs and ended up crocked even worse than he was.

He needs three or four ninety minute appearances, either from bounce games, playing for the U21s, or both. Once he gets through those unscathed, then we can talk. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we aren’t desperate.

Cirkin worries me. He’s a fabulous player and in my opinion he’s the best left back in the Championship, but he can’t stay fit. Again, I’d rather we just took our time and make sure that he’s really ready to play when we need him to be.

So yeah…let’s just be patient.

Getting too ahead of ourselves could see either player back on the treatment table sooner than we’d like, and nobody wants that.

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

Joseph Tulip says…

The Middlesbrough game and an unfortunate red card aside, we’ve been relatively solid for the majority of our games so far this season, so I certainly wouldn’t be overly eager to change things up too much.

Dennis Cirkin was a regular until his injury setback and it could make sense to slot him in at left back, particularly if Niall Huggins is still sidelined following the injury he picked up in the Boro game.

Even if Huggins is available, and despite the remarkable way in which he’s performed since coming back from such long-term injuries, I think Cirkin offers a bit more at left back as a specialist in that position.

Trai Hume has also acquitted himself well there when called upon, but bringing in Cirkin would ensure we’re keeping round pegs in round holes and playing our strongest available back four.

There’s also a case for Aji Alese, and I’m a huge admirer of all he can offer both at left back and in the centre of defence.

However, he’s been out of the picture for a long period of time and in my opinion, he should be patient and wait for an opportunity which will arise at some point, either from the bench or due to injuries or suspensions to other players further down the line.

Malc Dugdale says…

I have to say that I can’t wait to get these lads back, as even if we didn’t need them to shore up our defence, they can bring qualities that others don’t really possess.

I do think we’ll be forced to use Alese quite soon after the internationals, and the timing of his potential return is perfect in many ways.

We lost Niall Huggins in the Boro game to injury and although having ten men was a major factor, we looked really loose at the back after Dan Neil was sent for an early bath.

Yes, we lost a midfielder and not a defender (although Neil often sits in front of the defence) and the critics may say we shouldn’t have shipped as many goals as we did. It’s also fair to say that we shouldn’t overreact to such a freak result created by the actions of officials, either.

Putting Alese in and playing him alongside Ballard is potentially the centre back pairing we’ve wanted and possibly preferred for some time. They’re both tall and strong, good in the air, decent with the ball at their feet and very athletic and quick, which is just what we need.

However, if we don’t want to disrupt the understanding between Ballard and Luke O’Nien, we can drop Alese and O’Nien either side of Ballard and play with a back three and wing backs if it suits who we’re up against.

In simple terms, just having Alese in the mix gives us a number of options that we need to use to bounce back from the big loss before the international break.

I think Dennis Cirkin is a bit further out in terms of a return, but he’s our first choice left back when fit, and he also links up and overlaps really well with Jack Clarke.

Once he’s back and gets some minutes under his belt, I think he’ll slot right in and hopefully we’ll also see his goals and assists add to our progress.

Exciting times are ahead with these lads returning to the first team, and hopefully after this round of injuries we can have a good spell with minimal issues. I really feel we could’ve gone up last season if we’d had more fit defenders, although we certainly weren’t ready for promotion in my view.

If these injury challenges continue, the likes of Jenson Seelt and Nectar Triantis really need to step up, or Kristjaan Speakman may have to strengthen again in January in this department while the earlier signings continue to develop.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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