In terms of ability Patrick Roberts sits near the top of the list when it comes to current Sunderland players. Aesthetically Roberts is everything you want in a winger - he’s quick, skillful, graceful and most importantly he’s entertaining. But is that enough?
Upon signing his new contract few would have complained about the prospect of Roberts becoming one of the highest earners at the club - a cost worth paying to maintain his services in the eyes of many. However, if you scratch beneath the surface, it isn’t uncouth to ask for more from one of Sunderlands stand-out players.
We’re all aware of Roberts recent trials and tribulations in front of goal but with a mere 1 assist and zero goals in 16 appearances this season his continued selection is becoming harder to justify as time goes on.
Whilst Mowbray may be patient enough to persist with our little magician, there’s a feeling amongst supporters that Roberts’ continual chances may be better off afforded to someone else.
The equation as it stands is a fairly simple one - with Abdoullah Ba registering 2 goals and a single assist in far fewer minutes, anyone boasting better figures than Roberts is a legitimate option to replace him in the starting line up, even if those figures aren’t objectively excellent in themselves.
As the January transfer window swings into view it can’t be ignored that there’s an ever increasing likelihood Sunderland will look to bolster their wide options with the departure of Jack Clarke seemingly quantified as a “when” and not “if” situation.
In either scenario or even worse yet, both scenarios playing out simultaneously, it isn’t unfair to expect Roberts to match his aesthetically pleasing style with some equally as pleasing tangible contributions.
This itself isn’t just a Roberts issue in isolation and with Sunderland’s strikers still yet to score a goal between them for several months some may see it unfair to lay critique at the feet of Roberts, a problem again exacerbated by Jack Clarkes insatiable ability to largely fill the void created by our misfiring forwards.
For now though, something must change - be it in favour of Roberts or against.
In his appearances so far this season Abdoullah Ba has showed plentiful improvement and a welcome keenness to proceedings and it isn’t lost on many that despite his rawness Abdoullah has offered more in terms of goals and assists than Roberts this season, whilst also boasting a healthy scope for improvement.
Everybody at Sunderland is desperate to see Roberts return to form, none more than himself, and with Abdoullah Ba breathing down his neck, nobody wishes to see Paddy become the white elephant whilst we search for our killer instinct.