Matthew Crichton says...
For me, there is one player that I’m desperate to see the true ability of and he is not a summer signing, but one from January.
Due to the tremendous form of Amad, Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, Isaac Lihadji is still yet to make his full Sunderland debut and played just 79 minutes of football last season.
While I don’t think he deserved to start, or get more minutes at the time, this pre-season is a clean slate for the 21-year-old to get match-fit and show Tony Mowbray exactly what he can do in games.
One thing we have learned massively across the last year is to trust in young players and give them a chance over five/six starts to see their true ability - Trai Hume and Pierre Ekwah are prime examples.
While Lihadji does appear quite light, Edouard Michut was also viewed to lack the physicality required at this level, but he proved many wrong and few would have complained should he have arrived on a permanent basis.
Lihadji was part of a French league-winning side and was deemed good enough to play in the Champions League (admittedly off the bench), so if Speakman and Harvey believe that potential is there, I do too!
He may be an enigma now, but we might have an entirely different view of Isaac Lihadji come the start of the season if he proves he deserves to start regular friendlies.
Malc Dugdale says...
For me there’s loads to look forward to as we navigate these pre-season games across the whole pitch.
With stories this week about challenges with getting players back for our back line I’m keen to see what both Seelt and Triantis have to offer. Mowbray has made it clear we will need to use the full squad from early on so both have a chance to shine. I really hope they give him some options as we may need them.
In the middle, the chance to see what Jobe Bellingham can do alongside Dan Neil and Pierre Ekwah leaves my mouth salivating. While that combo probably lacks certain aspects not a million miles from what the injured Evans delivers, I’ve not been as excited about the middle of the park for many years. We have gone from the likes of Cattermole and Power (who both put a shift in, don’t get me wrong) to Jobe and Pierre. The promise and progress is epic just thinking about those four players.
Up front, with the news that Stewart won’t make the start of the season we need Lihadji and Semedo to really show us what they can do. The youth, physicality and pace between them is something with a lot of promise but they are both very early in their journey. Now is the time to gel, graft and show what they can do.
Martin Wanless says...
Of the new recruits, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what Luis Semedo can offer. That strength and physicality up front is something we really missed for large parts of last season, and while we still need some reinforcements in attack, it’ll be good to get a gauge on just how ready for Championship football the lad who swapped the Stadium of Light for the Stadium of Light really is. With Stewart set to miss the start of the season – and who knows what his long-term future at the club is – Semedo has a massive opportunity to really nail down a place right from the off.
Another player I think has a huge chance in pre-season is one who’s been with us for a couple of seasons, but we’ve barely seen in action – and that’s Niall Huggins.
He arrived from Leeds with a glowing reputation, can play in both full-back positions as well as in midfield, and showed some nice touches in his two cameo play-off appearances. If he can stay fit (and granted, that’s a big if, based on what we’ve seen so far), he will give us greater depth at full-back, and could well challenge for a starting berth. With Cirkin struggling with injury once again, Huggins could be in the right place at the right time this pre-season.