We Can’t Fly Without Wing-Backs

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Jack Ross’ preferred 3-5-2 system is reliant on wing-backs. Why, then, don’t we have any?!

Looking back at summer transfer business so far, I’d be wrong if I’d told you I wasn’t over the moon to see the back of some of Sunderland’s full-backs. Financially, it made sense. Three of them from last season were earning Premier League wages, or Championship at least. So, I was happy to see the majority of them offloaded in hope that we would bring in some fresh faces with the extra financial wriggle room.

When Ross started promoting his new look system of three at the back, I was excited. A real opportunity to recruit some modern-day full-backs who possess athletic qualities and can support in attack whilst also defending. A different dimension could be on offer. Though least be honest, only Oviedo really fit into that bill and he was suspect on multiple occasions when defending though his ability to put an accurate ball into the box helped us. The same couldn’t be said for others. End product was very few and far between.

The signings of Conor McLaughlin and Jordan Willis made it look like we were recruiting for a system. Something I think we can all get behind. A drive behind the recruitment that may give Sunderland a new identity in how we play. McLaughlin has played on the right-hand side of a three for Northern Ireland and Willis’ pace and perhaps leadership qualities allow you to think that he would run the rule from the middle.

There is however, a missing piece to that puzzle, still. Weeks have passed and I’m still checking Twitter to see if we’ve been linked with someone who would suit that role. Martin Olsson rumours were quickly nipped in the bud. A glimmer of hope in the names being floated around on deadline day from the top two leagues, we lost out on.

Would it have been that disastrous to have kept hold of Donald Love or Reece James for a little bit longer so that come three games into the season the manager is not struggling to fill positions?

So, what’s going on? Why were we so quick to offload all of the players capable of playing in the wing-back or full-back position before we had any replacements lined up? And this is where it is clear. The recruitment strategy isn’t to allow Ross to bring players in that will fit his system.

It begs me to ask the question, would it have been that disastrous to have kept hold of Donald Love or Reece James for a little bit longer so that come three games into the season the manager is not struggling to fill positions? Time will tell I suppose though from the early outings we are way off.

Now that we’re scrummaging around in the loan market, looking for any alternative to Denver Hume, we can only hope that we stumble upon a gem. Having attacking full-backs in today’s game can be a real advantage, and Sunderland seem to have missed this point for a few years now.

Remember how mint it was when Patrick Van Aanholt would bomb forward? Different gravy I suppose. I’ll remain hopeful that there is more to recruitment strategy than meets the eye and Ross finds that missing link that allows us as an alternative system. At the moment, I hope he sticks to four-four-bloody-two.

Lewis Newton