During the 2023/2024 season so far, Sunderland have been pretty wary of changing up the defence, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
At times, changes should’ve been made when they weren’t and vice versa, and a man who has been subject to the changing of the guard is summer signing Jenson Seelt.
Signed from PSV Eindhoven in his homeland, Seelt has had to be very patient as he waited for his chance in the side, and after a few early hiccups, recent weeks have seen the Dutchman grab his opportunities with both hands.
Playing as either right back or a right-sided centre-half against Leeds United and then Hull City, Seelt has been an assured presence, which represents quite a change in fortunes for him.
It’s no lie to say that Seelt’s introduction to life at Sunderland was frustrating and then cagey. He wasn’t called upon until a five-minute cameo at Sheffield Wednesday, and this was followed up by him being thrown on during the home defeat to Middlesbrough after Dan Neil’s red card.
It was no planned introduction, and we can be sure in thinking this isn’t how his entry into the side was meant to go.
Since then, we’ve seen more and more of Seelt, and three of his last four appearances have been as part of the starting line eleven.
Implementing a back five with three centre backs isn’t something we’ve tried too often in the past, but that’s partially down to not having the correct tools for that particular job.
However, this season, we’ve seen Dan Ballard, Seelt and Luke O’Nien play together in the middle of a back five, and with huge success. The defensive job we did on Leeds is something that despite all our attacking talent, isn’t something we’ve seen enough this season.
With Seelt on the right hand side of the defence, we have a young player who, despite his youthfulness, reads the game with a maturity that’s often lacking in twenty-year-old defenders.
The succession plan for Seelt is very much underway, with a positive outcome for his teammates representing a good blueprint.
Trai Hume is the best example, but Seelt also joined Sunderland to be moulded into a professional footballer. A main factor in this was trusting Hume and allowing him to play games. It’s a simple method but certainly effective.
With this smooth transition into good form for Seelt, the questions over where we’ll implement him moving forward.
The question of whether Luke O’Nien a centre back rears its head now and again, but in fairness, he was very good at Hull and continues to have more good days than bad.
In an ideal world, you want players in their natural positions. A central defensive pairing of Seelt and Dan Ballard, as well as looking lovely, has the potential to be one of our strongest in many years. Agile and calm and the ball, while both being built nice and tall, is a winning combination for centre-half pairings in the modern game.
Then again, if Michael Beale’s hand is turned and he switches to a three centre back setup up we’ll be in a good place. Opting for two wingbacks who will back up the wide attackers should work well with the players we have, and giving Seelt more defensive responsibility is something he’s earned.