Sunderland's interesting Adil Aouchiche question after Jobe Bellingham substitution against Birmingham City
Adil Aouchiche scored his first Sunderland goal after coming off the bench in the side's 3-1 win over Birmingham at the Stadium of Light.
and live on Freeview channel 276
While Sunderland were short of centre-back options for their Championship fixture against Birmingham, Black Cats boss Tony Mowbray had multiple attacking players to choose from on his bench.
Abdoullah Ba, Adil Aouchiche, Eliezer Mayenda and Mason Burstow were all brought on in the second half, while Bradley Dack, Alex Pritchard and Hemir were unused substitutes at the Stadium of Light. Mayenda’s introduction in the 74th minute was particularly encouraging, with the 18-year-old looking sharp after recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered in pre-season.
Aouchiche, 21, also came on with 16 minutes, plus six minutes of stoppage time, remaining and made a lasting impression by converting Jack Clarke’s low cross for Sunderland’s third goal in a 3-1 win. It was a fine cameo from the 21-year-old playmaker who is likely to be pushing for his first competitive Black Cats start after the international break.
Mowbray admitted earlier this month Aouchiche would have started against either Leicester or Norwich in October, with plans to give Jobe Bellingham a rest, yet the Frenchman picked up a groin injury which ruled him out of those fixtures.
From the flashes we’ve seen from Aouchiche, including an appearance for the under-21s side, he has demonstrated excellent technical ability and is best suited to playing in the No 10 position where he can maximise his attacking qualities. The dilemma for Mowbray will be that he also has Bellingham, Dack and Pritchard who are all suited to that role.
Yet Aouchiche certainly staked his claim for more regular game time here, completing four key passes which led to chances (according to Whoscored.com) in the short time he was on the pitch. His late run into the box to convert Clarke’s cross was also the sort of move Sunderland have lacked at times in the final third this season.
With Bellingham set to join up with England’s under-19s team during the international break, there will be a point when Mowbray has to take the teenager out of his side. Aouchiche has put himself in a good position for when that time comes. It will be interesting and exciting to see how the Frenchman progresses during his first season on Wearside.