Sunderland’s defence has come under plenty of criticism this season and, in some cases, rightly so. The Black Cats have found clean sheets hard to come by, resulting in many score draws. One position that has been up for debate of late is the right-back position. With Adam Matthews and Luke O’Nien vying for the position, who should be the permanent right-back at Sunderland?
Adam Matthews v Luke O’Nien: Who Should be the Black Cats Right-Back?
Welsh international Matthews began the season as a regular in Jack Ross’s side. His defensive reliability made him a natural selection at right-back. Originally signed by Dick Advocaat when the club were in the Premier League, it is only this season that he has looked dependable.
For a player with international and Champions League experience, Matthews has had an inconsistent time on Wearside. Never a player who will win man-of-the-match awards, Matthews is, however, a natural right-back. In League One, he should never look out of place.
His defensive abilities are better than his attacking ones. When Jack Ross experimented with wing-backs, Matthews was the one to be omitted. The former Celtic man is capable of getting forward and has the stamina to get up and down the pitch all game.
An injury before Christmas forced Matthews to miss several games. Now fit, he is pushing for a first team place once again. With the Black Cats conceding too many goals, calls have increased for the Welshman to be back in the team.
Signed from Wycombe Wanderers in the summer, Luke O’Nien has become a popular player amongst fans. His eagerness to please and his versatility has made him a valuable member of the squad. When Adam Matthews suffered his injury, Jack Ross was struggling to find a replacement. Up stepped O’Nien.
The midfielder has proved a capable player at right-back. His midfield instincts have served him well in this position. His energy sees him get forward a lot more than Matthews. This has resulted in a goal plus he won two penalties in the recent victory over Gillingham.
Defensively, O’Nien is not the best. However, this does not stop him from tirelessly working in that area of the field. His positional sense could also be questioned. This has left gaps in his position for the opposition to exploit.
With O’Nien in the team, Sunderland are more susceptible to conceding goals at the moment. However, he is a player playing out of position. He is still learning on the job and can only get better the more he plays in the position.
With his attitude, he will get better and his attacking play, which has brought goals, assists and opportunities, is a major tick in his box.