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Fulham v Sunderland: Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round

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Roker Roundtable: Can Sunderland’s new arrivals make an instant impact?

As we prepare for a tough trip to Millwall this weekend, will Tony Mowbray throw his new signings straight in or will they be gradually phased into the team from the bench? We asked our writers for their thoughts.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Anthony Gair says…

Although we can all get excited about new signings and wax lyrical about their potential capabilities, what we’re doing at the moment is working.

We’re not heading towards relegation, the playoffs are still a distinct possibility, and we’re still very content with how the team are playing. Whilst I don’t doubt that these players will be desperate to run out at The Den, we need to ensure that the team we send out can do the job on the day.

Thankfully, that’s not my job, and the decisions lie with Tony Mowbray.

Joe Gelhardt will potentially be up front on his own to play the Ross Stewart role, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Mowbray has other ideas- maybe Patrick Roberts or Amad up top for his trickery and style, because he’d terrify defenders with his direct play.

I’m really excited to see the Lads play but as we all know, they don’t always work out straightaway.

Regardless of what happens, I wish them all the best!

Fulham v Sunderland - Emirates FA Cup - Fourth Round - Craven Cottage Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Paddy Hayes says…

Under normal circumstances, I’d hold off on bedding in recent acquisitions in order to give them a chance to get up to speed, especially if they’ve never played in England before or have had limited game time.

However, we haven’t been afforded such luxuries with Ross Stewart now out for the rest of the season.

I think it would be remiss not to start Joe Gelhardt against Millwall. He’s clearly got talent in abundance, so playing with a ‘false nine’ or with Jack Clarke centrally isn’t preferable when we have an out-and-out striker on the bench.

As far as Isaac Lihadji is concerned, he’s never experienced the English game, and nor has he seen much game time at Lille this season.

Playing Millwall is guaranteed to be a culture shock for someone unacquainted with the demands of Championship football, not least because of the physicality and aerial presence they bring. As a player that relies on pace and technicality, he’ll be thrown to the lions if Tony Mowbray opts to start him.

With Pierre Ekwah, there’s definitely a greater chance of Mowbray considering starting him.

Without Corry Evans and against an imposing Millwall side, we may profit from a combative, defensively-minded central midfielder who can look after the ball, and who can bring a level of physicality that Edouard Michut is lacking.

After the performances against Middlesbrough and Fulham, I think we’ll go into Saturday’s game with Dan Neil and Michut starting in midfield, and Gelhardt replacing the injured Stewart.


Phil West says…

This is a tricky one.

We tend to associate games against Millwall, particularly in their own backyard, as being challenging encounters with plenty of physicality, a bit of needle, and a hostile home crowd to roar them on. It’s not a game we should fear, but we do need to be solid, well-drilled, and ready for whatever Gary Rowett’s side throw at us.

With that in mind, I would expect Tony Mowbray to bring on some of the new players later in the game, ideally when we’re in a position of strength and they can continue the momentum that’s hopefully been built up during the first hour.

Pierre Ekwah is the player that intrigues me the most in this instance.

He’s been brought to Sunderland as a powerful, box-to-box midfielder who can help us to win the key battles and keep the play moving. This game, therefore, should be an ideal early test for him, but can you justify breaking up the promising partnership of Dan Neil and Edouard Michut at this stage?

Neil is growing into his role every week and Michut is incredibly skilful and nimble, but if Millwall decide to hit us with a bit of grunt down the middle, perhaps Ekwah’s skillset would be perfect.

He’s got to get up to speed and in tune with how we play, and this could be a brilliant chance for him to make an early statement in the red and white stripes.

Fulham v Sunderland: Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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