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How can Sunderland strike the perfect balance in midfield?

As Michael Beale tries to build a platform for our attackers, could personnel or tactical changes in midfield be the answer? We asked our writers for their thoughts

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Gav says…

I’m really keen to see more of Chris Rigg and Adil Aouchiche in the second half of the season, and I think that the timing may well be right to bring one of them in to that position Jobe currently occupies so that we can see what they can do.

Jobe has been largely good this season but I think everyone can see he’s maybe struggling a bit for form and isn’t quite as sharp as he was at the start of the season - and that’s okay, because as an 18 year old boy you have to expect inconsistency. The club must do right by him and know when to bring him out of the side, and now is as good a time as any. That’s absolutely fine by the way and it certainly doesn’t make him a bad player, but he needs a rest every so often just like anyone else does.

That said, I’d be tempted to see what a front line of Clarke, Ba, Roberts and Rusyn looks like. I think Ba could work well with Roberts if given a run of games, and we all know that Rusyn is due a run in the team, so why not?

We have options in those positions and that’s the main thing. The struggle for Michael Beale is that he needs the right balance of youth and experience, all while trying to get the players to play his way. I don’t think we need to change too much, but I think what he does need to do is recognise when we maybe need to rotate the players and give opportunities to the likes of Rigg and Aouchiche who have largely watched on from the sidelines this season.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Andy Thompson says…

I think the priority for the next few games would be for Michael Beale to utilise some of the fringe players in our squad in order to give some much-needed rest to some of the regular starters.

When he returns to full fitness, I’m really keen to see the introduction of Callum Styles.

I think he’ll provide an opportunity for Beale to rest one of either Pierre Ekwah and Dan Neil, and will hopefully add some experience and know-how to our midfield, especially in tight games.

I think it’s clear that Jobe needs a rest, and giving Adil Aouchiche a chance in the number ten role would be welcomed, as he possesses great technical ability on the ball and I’ve been impressed every time he’s played.

A run of games for him to strut his stuff may just freshen things up in a central attacking area, so we’re less stale than we currently seem to be.

I’d also like to see Romaine Mundle get some minutes. It seems like he’ll be the replacement for Jack Clarke when he inevitably leaves, and getting him bedded in over the next few games would be ideal.

From talking with many Tottenham fans over the past week, it seems this lad was thought of as the ‘next big thing’ out of their academy just a year or so ago.

I’m excited to see his development and seeing him get some minutes now will allow us to see what type of player we’ve invested in.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Romaine Mundle Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says…

Changes in wide areas have certainly had an impact on our midfield in recent weeks. An injury to Patrick Roberts handed opportunities to Abdoullah Ba and Alex Pritchard before the latter’s recent departure from the club.

Although Pritchard was effective when deployed wide on the right, it’s not his natural position and he was inclined to drift into his preferred role as a number ten.

Ba, on the other hand, has given us that width, albeit with varying results.

Now with Roberts available again, it’ll be interesting to see whether Ba is used as a ten. He’s played there previously and he scored at Norwich last season from that berth.

I’d be happy to see that again, with Pritchard’s precious position very much up for grabs, but it would mean leaving out one of either Jobe or Pierre Ekwah.

It could be argued that both are in need of a rest, so leaving out one or the other could be an option, and it’ll also be interesting to see how new signings Callum Styles and Romaine Mundle are integrated.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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