Sunderland’s 3-1 win at QPR on Saturday was a victory for ‘proper’ football.
It was an example of Tony Mowbray’s team in full flight, and it was memorable as a match that ended with many of our attacking players on the pitch.
The start of the second half saw Mogga make a very positive substitution, with Niall Huggins being replaced by Patrick Roberts.
This change meant that both of our right wing options were on the pitch together, with Roberts playing on the inside of Abdoullah Ba. Other than showing off our incredible attacking depth, it highlighted exactly what we can do with the players at our disposal.
On a narrow pitch and with QPR’s defenders staying tight to him, it took Ba a while to get going, but he gradually grew in confidence and was a huge factor in our success in the second half.
After the game, Mowbray was outward in his praise for Ba, saying that the right wing position is now his to lose. This means that with Roberts now fully fit, there looks to be a great battle in prospect for that starting spot.
The pressure seemed to be increasing on Ba as recently as earlier this season, which I always felt was harsh, considering his age, shortage of football and the fact that he was playing out of position.
However, he’s put the work in and his superb finish at QPR was a fine reward for his continued improvement.
Outside of his footballing ability, Ba has genuinely looked happier during the past few weeks, and when the team came over to the away end at full time on Saturday, he was beaming when he heard his name being sung.
His ability as a player has regularly shone through and we’ve seen glimpses of real talent, and slowly but surely, he’s beginning to make the step up.
At the start of the season, you could say without question that Roberts was the main right wing option moving forward. He’s one of the best in the division, and even on an ‘off day’, it always feels as though he’s on the cusp of pulling something special out of the bag.
However, the steady improvement of Ba gives Mowbray more options and perhaps the chance to rotate when necessary during what will be another lengthy season.
The alternative, albeit one that’s possibly overly attacking, is to have both of these players on the pitch at the same time.
We’ve seen that it can work but it feels as though it may only be a genuine possibility when facing a team who sit back and try to soak up pressure. QPR were a rare example of this, but we’ll doubtless face other teams this season who don’t want to attack us.
The pair linked up well, and with Alex Pritchard and Jobe Bellingham through the middle, and Jack Clarke and then Adil Aouchiche on the left, our attack was absolutely stacked during the second half on Saturday.
Looking ahead, if Mogga decides to play one of Roberts or Ba out wide with the likelihood of the other being on the bench, there’ll be fewer and fewer complaints if performances are maintained.