May 20, 2024

Could Patrick Roberts’ comeback provide a well-timed boost for Sunderland? Mike Dodds has confirmed that Roberts has resumed full training and might soon make his return to the pitch for the team. Could this agile winger be the spark needed to improve the team’s performance? When discussing Patrick Roberts, where do we begin in analyzing this skilled wide player?

Patrick Roberts dismisses 'best player' tag but heaps praise on Sunderland  boss Tony Mowbray - Sports Illustrated Sunderland Nation

Roberts is a dynamic attacker who has occasionally demonstrated flashes of true Premier League caliber while wearing the Sunderland shirt, often lifting the team to victories that seemed improbable, as evidenced by his memorable performance against Watford at home last season.

However, the phrase “at times” presents a challenge because, despite his capability of scoring spectacular long-range goals and navigating through tight defenses, we’ve witnessed more instances of the latter and fewer of the former this season.

Roberts has only appeared in twenty-six out of thirty-eight league matches so far, and hasn’t completed a full ninety minutes since just before Christmas.

Typically, a lack of playing time wouldn’t be considered a positive, but in Roberts’ case, it tells an intriguing story. During his last five appearances, Sunderland won two, drew two, and lost one. In contrast, during his recent absence, Sunderland recorded two wins, one draw, and seven losses.

Clearly, something isn’t clicking for Sunderland on the field, and identifying the exact issue proves challenging, even for those more experienced and well-compensated than us.

Nevertheless, I believe that along with Jack Clarke, Roberts’ absence has hurt Sunderland more than anticipated three months ago when his injuries began.

Sunderland has struggled with width all season, even when Clarke and Roberts were available, and in their absence, it seems they’ve completely abandoned the idea.

We’ve experimented with formations ranging from a back three or five to employing unconventional forward pairings involving Jobe and Abdoullah Ba, occasionally moving Chris Rigg to the left. It appears we’ve tried everything except playing a traditional winger.

Partially, this is understandable, as any team in this league missing the quality of Clarke and Roberts would undoubtedly suffer.

Without their natural flair, explosiveness, and ability to stretch defenses, Sunderland has felt like a bird with clipped wings.

Despite Romaine Mundle’s occasional bursts of energy and Ba’s determined efforts, neither possesses Roberts’ innate talent on the ball or his inclination to hug the touchline.

Even at his worst, Roberts has the ability to advance the team up the pitch with his dribbling skills. While his lack of goal contributions this season is a valid concern, Roberts brings something unique to the team— the ability to evade defenders effortlessly.

While it would be ideal for Roberts to convert some of these mesmerizing runs into goals or assists, simply bypassing defenders and advancing the ball upfield, even by a few yards, is invaluable in our current struggle to break through opposition lines.

Another positive aspect of Roberts’ potential return is his experience. While this topic has been discussed extensively, it’s worth noting that in crucial moments, having Roberts on the pitch, with his track record of performing under pressure for Sunderland, is preferable to relying on less seasoned players like Mundle.

Although Roberts alone won’t solve all our problems, his return could mark the first step toward strengthening the team, restoring balance to the attack, and providing our beleaguered head coach with much-needed options as he seeks to reverse our downward spiral.

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