Jon Guy says…
I think it’s a difficult one to call.
Ba didn’t look comfortable in the role on Saturday, and his final ball was lacking. That said, we have to ask: if he doesn’t play, who does?
Jewison Bennette might be the answer but he’d need a run of games and we don’t know if Lynden Gooch will still be with us on Saturday. We could play Jobe Bellingham there, but with no out-and-out striker that Tony Mowbray has faith in, he’s needed down the middle.
It might need a shift in shape which plays a little more to Ba’s strengths, not least because with Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke on the pitch, we look threatening when playing wide.
With that in mind, perhaps we need to change the way we approach the game and look to stretch Southampton, but aim for runners from midfield with balls in behind the defence rather than crosses into the box where we don’t have a target man if Hemir isn’t on the pitch.
Tom Albrighton says…
I think at this stage it’s probably worth persisting with Ba, as to throw the towel in now would likely be a precursor to throwing the towel in on his Sunderland career.
He’s shown flashes of quality during his time here, showcasing a vibrant tenacity and good technical ability despite his erratic tendencies.
Whilst his better performances have generally been through the middle, it seems that the coaching staff are insistent that Ba will play out wide for the foreseeable future.
With questions also hanging over Jewison Bennette and Lynden Gooch respectively, there has to come a point where another player is given regular game time in lieu of Patrick Roberts.
Despite his performance at the weekend being somewhat limited, Ba didn’t shame himself either but it’s clear to see that the issues that plagued him at Coventry stem not from a lack of ability, from the rustiness developed due to long periods without senior football.
At some stage, we have to give these players consistent opportunities to allow them to develop and persist with them over an extended period of time.
What may help Ba in the future is playing alongside a genuine centre forward to help hone his wing play. In addition, overlapping full backs would also provide him with some adequate space.
All in all, there’s a lot of niggling issues in playing him, especially out wide, but nothing that can’t be ironed out over time.