Sunderland boss gives fascinating insight into Patrick Roberts' situation - and the stat that shows his value
Tony Mowbray is pushing for more from Patrick Roberts - but insists his contribution to Sunderland's attacking play is massive
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Tony Mowbray says there is more to come from Patrick Roberts but insists his contribution to Sunderland's attacking play this season is far better than appears at face value.
Roberts registered his first assist of the season in Sunderland's 3-1 win over Norwich City last weekend, with Mowbray challenging the winger afterwards to try and match Jack Clarke's superb output so far this season.
Still, the head coach says Roberts' goal contributions become far clearer when you study the team's play in the final third so far this season - even if he feels the 26-year-old can push himself even further to realise his Premier League potential.
Sunderland are currently in talks with Roberts over a new contract, following deadline-day interest from Championship rivals Southampton last summer.
Roberts told The Echo after the recent defeat at Leicester City that he was loving his football on Wearside, and was hopeful that a new deal would be agreed in the near future. Mowbray also hopes that there will be an imminent resolution.
Though he knows that Roberts has more to give in front of goal, he also believes that the winger's presence has a huge influence on the opposition and therefore creates openings for his team mates.
"It's an interesting situation that Patrick finds himself in," Mowbray said.
"I'm Patrick's biggest fan, really - after his family members, of course - because I just like talent, I like people who can manipulate the ball, the guys who can stay on the ball and pick a pass and open things up in tight games when it's 1-1 or 0-0 or 2-1.
"I believe Roberts can bring an X-factor that turns those really tight games into wins for us, because he can dribble his way out of a telephone box and stick the ball on somebody's head and we score.
"And yet, he isn't Chris Rigg in training, who runs around and puts his foot in and wins every tackle.
"Patrick is quite content to be one of the cool kids and be a really talented footballer and enjoy his training but doesn't really push himself to the limit to be a really top, top, Premier League player.
"My job is to try and cajole him and talk to him about what he wants to do. I think it's a crying shame that, with total respect to this club, Patrick Roberts came to League One to kick-start his career.
"Having watched him play for Celtic and as a really young boy at Man City and Fulham, it's almost a wasted talent really - but it's not wasted because he is trying to fulfil it now and on his best days he is unplayable.
"Even though his stats are pretty poor this season regarding goals and assists, if you look at his stats for second-assists they are quite remarkable and in the top five percent in the league where the guy attracts three players to him and beats the first one and slips the ball past the other two for someone to slip it to Jack [Clarke] who bends it in the far corner.
"I think he is a really important player for us, I hope we can get his contractual situation sorted out and I just need to keep cajoling him into enjoying his football and to work hard for the team, because sometimes the talented players aren't necessarily the ones who are getting back and slide-tackling to help the team.
"Patrick's numbers are pretty good at running on matchdays, even though it might sometimes seem that he stands and waits on the right wing for the ball to come to him," he added.
"Out of possession he is running back a lot and working hard and I think the team feels the benefit of having two wingers in Clarke and Roberts who both have a work ethic and have the individual talent to eliminate people and create and score goals. He needs to assist and score goals, otherwise he won't be in the team. You can't have a player who doesn't assist, doesn't score, doesn't work hard.
"In my mind, if he wants to be a Premier League footballer and if he wants to be in a team that can get to the Premier League, and be an important player, he has to bring all aspects and improve his goals and assists because I know modern-day recruitment what points the arrow towards what teams look at is the numbers.
"If he hasn't had six assists and six goals this season…
"Clarke has scored nine goals and had one assist - that's ten goals he's been involved in in 14 games. If Patrick wants to be a Premier League player with this club or another club, the arrow has to be pointing at him.
"The really clever teams might look at second-assists as I mentioned, and I put a lot of store in that.
"I've spoken to managers after games and they are terrified of Roberts and Clarke and they bring their midfield players over and stop them running inside, which empties their midfield a little bit and if we pass inside or switch the play, we can attack from the other side."
Roberts has faced increased competition from Abdoullah Ba this season but looks likely to retain his place at Swansea City this weekend after his strong display against Norwich last weekend.