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Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship

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Can Abdoullah Ba now establish himself in Sunderland’s starting eleven?

One goal and two assists for the Frenchman against Stoke on Saturday was a just reward for a good performance, and we asked our writers for their thoughts on how it’ll benefit him moving forward

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gav says…

Ba’s stepped up in the absence of Patrick Roberts and I think has perhaps shown why the club have persisted with giving him minutes when it often seemed as though it just wasn’t going to happen for him in a Sunderland shirt.

I have to hold my hands up and once again admit I talk a load of shite, because I really couldn’t see it ever happening with Ba.

It’s still early days, but what I’ve seen in the last few games at least gives me hope that there’s something there and crucially, that it’s something worth persisting with.

With any young player moving abroad, it’s a big ask for them to make an immediate splash and that’s pretty much been the case with Ba, but prior to Michael Beale’s arrival I think it’s safe to say that he’d suffered from a lack of minutes in one position that he can really hone in on and make his own.

I don’t know if he’s the long term answer on the right hand side of the pitch, but in limited minutes this season he’s gotten goals and assists for the team and if given a proper run down that side, who knows what he could do.

I’m not getting too far ahead of myself though, because it could go the other way and the recent performances from Ba could just be a flash in the pan, but I think Beale needs to stick by him over the coming games and let him show why he should be starting there on a more regular basis.

With Roberts out of the way for the time being, it makes sense to prioritise Ba over anyone else, given that he took the chance he was afforded against Stoke.

His attitude is spot on and while he’s got loads to learn, I feel pretty confident now that we’ve seen signs that he might be able to make a more lasting impact in the first team if the conditions suit him as well as they did on Saturday.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

I was really pleased that Ba had the game he did against Stoke.

He’s faced some real challenges this season, and I myself have pleaded that he should be rotated out more than once the campaign.

This was my suggestion mainly for his own good, after he really struggled to avoid mistakes in many a game. My concern was that there’s a good player in there, and we have to protect these young lads while that talent emerges and grows.

After a great start to the game, I was a bit worried about Ba stepping back a bit, as his early signs of running at the opposition and trying to get in behind eased up a little after about twenty five minutes.

However, his role in all three goals showed us what he can do, and when he cuts out the errors and plays as freely and creatively as we’ve only seen in occasional flashes, he’s a really hot prospect.

He created something from nothing with his instinctive header to give Mason Burstow his first goal, and was as clinical with his own finish as he was with the ball to Pierre Ekwah for his left footed belter.

Not only has Ba boosted his own confidence, he’s lit a fire in the belly of two other players who really needed a lift, and Ekwah and Burstow can also kick on from this.

With the imminent exit of Alex Pritchard and Patrick Roberts not yet fit, I can see no better idea than giving Ba a run of games to build on this positive performance.

It wasn’t perfect and at times I wished he wouldn’t go down so easily when looking for the free kick, but overall the lad has taken a huge step forward and I fully expect that the more game time he gets, the more often we’ll see similar output from him.

Well done, Abdoullah.


Tom Albrighton says…

I’ve always been a fan of Ba and to me, he’s just about the ‘perfect amount of chaos’.

He can drive you up the wall at times and he doesn’t always do the sensible thing, but when the sublime or the ridiculous comes off, it’s a joy to behold and we’re a duller side without him.

Regarding recent performances, it’s been a joy to see him silence the critics, many of whom forget he’s still only twenty years of age.

At first, his move to the right hand side bewildered me but thanks to plenty of persistence in the face of uncertainty, Ba has shown signs that he’s taking to his wide role with aplomb.

With a great work rate and an infectious attitude that’s never deterred by mistakes, he’s not only become a rival for Roberts on the right hand side but in my eyes, the starter of the two.

Although Roberts passes the eye test with his beautifully serene dribbling style, his end product during almost his entire spell at the club hasn’t matched his ability with the ball at his feet.

As a result, Ba’s ability to get goals and assists on a more regular basis means that for the immediate future, he must be our first choice out on the right hand side.

As time progresses, so will Ba and despite his stuttering start and being asked to play in a variety of positions, it really feels like he’s found his place out wide.

Of course, because this is Ba, he’ll also produce more than his fair share of ‘head in your hands’ moments, but that’s part of what makes him so endearing and so exciting.

His infectious attitude, his enthusiasm and natural talent is something fans should be prepared to embrace for a while longer.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

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