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Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: How can Tony Mowbray make best use of his wider squad?

The head coach spoke about possible rotation after Wednesday night’s win over Blackburn, so who could be rested and who might take their place for the games to come?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

If it were me, I’d be quite cautious with regards to changing a winning team and would prefer to keep things as settled as possible.

My first choice would be to ease up the training programme instead, if that were at all possible.

However, given the schedule, I can see where Tony Mowbray’s coming from, and he’ll doubtless have the stats to show him which players are currently in the ‘high risk’ category.

Any decisions he makes will also take into consideration what he’s seen with his own eyes, so as long as he communicates the changes properly, you have to go with it.

I certainly wouldn’t envy him, as those who miss out will be sorely disappointed given the way we’ve performed as a unit. You’d just have to hope they respond to it well, but on that front I’ve been pleased to see just how many of our players appear to have a good attitude.

It’ll be a common issue in the Championship and because we’re well stocked in some areas, there’s always going to be a question over whether we stick or twist.

The number of games and the additional minutes will hopefully give people enough openings in the long run, so they’ll be expected to react positively and keep themselves in good nick.

However, you might be able to tell by me dancing around the subject that I’m trying to avoid the original question. I wouldn’t want anybody to think that the names I’m about to list are because I think they’re playing badly, because it really is down to their circumstances.

Niall Huggins would be the first and only one, because it’s a lot to ask of someone who’s had so many injuries to feature three times in a week.

I liked his perseverance and he eventually got to grips with things as the game wore on against Blackburn, so taking him out now might seem counterproductive.

If it were to happen, I assume the thinking would be that it’s better to plan a short break for him now and reduce the risk of a bigger setback further down the line.

It depends on what other options we have, which in the case of Abdoullah Ba is admittedly straightforward.

Patrick Roberts is always going to be hard to omit, and Ba has been fantastic in his absence, but onOn the other hand, in terms of senior starts, it’s still quite early in his career.

Any changes would not be ‘the end’ and should be viewed with the longer term in mind.

Ba, much like Jobe Bellingham, is a young lad and needs to be protected.

It’s also easy to forget that some players aren’t the finished article.

They sometimes look like established pros so I’m encouraged when I hear about clear development plans, as nobody wants them to burn out. In Ba’s case, we’re already seeing the benefits of him being given a chance to settle in a new country last season.

Mixing things up can be a risk. Lose and you’ll inevitably be asked questions, but we do have options and we seem to have things properly thought out.

We have a long season ahead and with any luck, a lot of growth to come from these lads in Sunderland colours. Handle it right and everyone will benefit!

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jonny Hawley says…

Niall Huggins is the name that jumps out to me but in classic Sunderland fashion, he’s just about the only player we haven’t got fit cover for!

He’s deputised quite well since coming in for the injured Dennis Cirkin, but after plenty of time out of first team football, Huggins could benefit from a rest during this spell of three games in a week.

I personally wouldn’t be averse to seeing Luke O’Nien fill in at left back, as we know how versatile he is.

That in turn begs the question of who plays at centre half, and generally you’d avoid changes in central defence unless they’re forced.

However, Jenson Seelt and Nectar Triantis aren’t going to get match fit by watching from the bench, so could this weekend be a sensible time to rotate one in alongside Dan Ballard?

Further forward, we’re spoilt for choice.

Jack Clarke should keep his place until further notice, but with Patrick Roberts and Adil Aouchiche lurking hungrily on the bench, this may be a good time to give a break to Jobe or Abdoullah Ba.

Ba has been in fine form, but we know Roberts is capable of moments of magic and will be fired up to regain his place. Meanwhile, it’s easy to forget that Jobe is just seventeen, but he is!

He can’t start week in and week out indefinitely, and with Aouchiche already demonstrating some of the quality that persuaded us to sign him, my vote would be to rotate the better Bellingham brother out for a game or so.

I’m glad it’s Tony Mowbray who’s got to do this, because I wouldn’t fancy telling any of these lads to sit out for a game when they’re in this form!

Kevin Barker says…

I don’t see how we can rotate too much in the short term with the limited players available to Tony Mowbray.

Further down the line, once Aji Alese, Jay Matete, Dennis Cirkin, Eliezer Mayenda, Timothée Pembélé and Nazariy Rusyn are in the mix, we’ll have that luxury.

Whichever team we put out, we seem to find a way and if one player drops off slightly, another steps up to the plate. I don’t worry too much about the odd injury or suspension as this team takes it in its stride and plays the same fluid football that we’ve become accustomed to seeing.

If anyone may need a rest and to be protected from burnout, it would be Jobe due to his age, and maybe Niall Huggins as he hasn’t played a lot of football in recent seasons.

If we can get to the international break and start to see injured players return, we’ll be in a great position to kick on and establish ourselves in the top six heading towards Christmas.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images


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