This is Lee Johnson's big Sunderland dilemma ahead of Fleetwood Town clash
After three consecutive league wins which has seen his side move to the top of League One, Sunderland boss Lee Johnson would probably prefer to name a similar side for this weekend’s trip to Fleetwood.
The Black Cats boss will have to make at least one change for the game at Highbury, though, after centre-back Tom Flanagan picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and is therefore suspended.
Flanagan’s early-season form has been impressive, particularly his partnership with Manchester City loanee Callum Doyle in the heart of defence.
The pair have started every league game together this term, complimenting each other with a blend of youth and experience.
Yet one player’s misfortune will provide another opportunity, and Johnson has multiple options who can replace the Northern Ireland international.
Bailey Wright and West Ham loanee Frederik Alves are the players in contention to take Flanagan’s place as the right-sided centre-back, and both will be disappointed by their lack of game time.
Alves clearly has the attributes to excel in English football – he’s quick, good in the air and his ability on the ball was highlighted upon his Sunderland arrival
But while the Danish under-21s international can’t be judged on a solitary Carabao Cup appearance at Blackpool, there were times when the 21-year-old’s inexperience showed. Perhaps it was down to a lack of game time and understanding with team-mates who hadn’t accumulated much game time together.
When Alves was signed, the hope was surely that he would gain regular game time and be a key player for the Black Cats. That may still happen, yet on this occasion Wright appears a more ready-made replacement.
The Australian has impressed with his late cameos from the bench and is one of the side’s recognised leaders.
Wright, 29, would provide an experienced partner for Doyle against a Fleetwood attack which scored four at Rotherham last time out and accommodates two strikers.
It’s the sort of battle Wright will be used to and, with more game time under his belt this season, it would be a surprise if the Aussie was left out.