To be honest, I wouldn’t say I was ‘excited’.
Nothing I’ve seen yet from Lihadji has given me anything to be excited about, although you’d like to think that his pedigree and the fact he’s been here half a season and should theoretically be bedded in should mean he’s ready to hit the ground running in pre-season.
Ability-wise, it’s clearly there or we wouldn’t have signed him, but the ‘pitch personality’ (something Lee Johnson used to mention frequently) is just as important, and that’s on Lihadji.
He has to show that he’s a committed player capable of working hard off the ball and then, at the other end of the pitch, capable of producing the goods.
He’s learned from some fantastic players in Amad, Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, and I think that replacing Amad - a huge task, I know - has to be his goal for the season. We’re going to be desperately searching around for an effective replacement and it may well be that we already have one right under our nose.
I think that for the club to be successful in the long term, we must compliment our fabulous play by ensuring everyone is fully bought in to the way Sunderland AFC operates, and that means regardless of your ability, you must work just as hard as your teammates.
If Lihadji can do that, grow up a little bit, earn the respect of his teammates and then prove his worth in pre-season, he’s got every chance of succeeding.
But just to ram the point home…it’s all on him.
Dan Harrison says…
Although most fans, myself included, were probably quite disappointed to not see Lihadji given many opportunities towards the end of the season, due to our position and the form of our attacking players, it was totally understandable.
Despite match footage in a Sunderland shirt being very limited, all the messages we get from Tony Mowbray and from in and around the club are promising, and everybody talks about Lihadji in a very encouraging way.
Let’s not forget, before being frozen out at Lille, Lihadji had started matches in both Ligue 1 and the Europa League for the French outfit, and he looked like a threat with his pace and technical ability.
His minutes were unfortunately severely limited following a serious injury suffered early in the campaign, but players and pundits alike raved about the ability shown by the Frenchman during his time on the field.
After getting a full pre-season under his belt, a prolonged period to adjust to the league and the area, I expected Lihadji to become a staple in the team as the 2023/2024 campaign gets underway.
Operating as a more traditional wide man looking to cut in, he allows Patrick Roberts to shift into that number ten role when both are on the field together, and it gives us yet another diverse attacking option in our arsenal.
Personally, I feel that we’ll see the best of Lihadji this coming season and the young man could really project his career on an upwards trajectory for the Mackems. All things to look forward to as we patiently wait for the new season to begin!
Ewan Bowman says…
I think he was brought in as the long term replacement for Amad, and he’s got a similar skillset as well.
He’s quick, skilful, manipulates the ball well, and wants to take defenders on. I’m not saying that he’s the ‘next Amad’, but he’s a player who’s more than capable of filling his shoes.
It’s a big pre season for Lihadji as he’s had to bide his time and only played limited minutes last season due to the form of Patrick Roberts. He’s another option at the top end of the pitch and if he plays and plays well, the void left by Amad’s departure has been filled.
He’s already won a league title with Lille so there’s a player there, and it’s time for him to step up and show the fans that he’s ready to play regular first team football.
Malc Dugdale says…
I’m very excited to see what Lihadji can bring to the team, especially next season.
Not every player can settle in super swiftly and make a huge impact, but I trust the system we’re now using for recruitment and I fully expect a very different player at the start of next season compared to the one we saw flashes of in 2022/2023.
He’s clearly pacey, he’s got tricks and specialities, and he’s already played a small part in how the team works and how he can contribute to it.
With a full pre-season and the signings we’ll bring in (meaning he isn’t the new kid any more) I’ve got high hopes that he can be a key figure in our frontline for 2023/2024.
I can’t wait for the American tour to see how things are shaping up!