Having lost just one of their first eight league matches so far this season, Sunderland are impressing in the early stages of the 2021-22 campaign and it’s been a real team effort.
Lee Johnson oversaw a squad overhaul this summer, getting rid of some experienced senior players and for the most part replacing them with young, hungry individuals.
Some players remained though from last season and one of those in Carl Winchester is proving to be a real unsung hero for the Black Cats this season.
The 28-year-old played in the engine room last season but with Luke O’Nien moving into that area of the pitch, a vacancy opened up at right-back for Winchester and he hasn’t looked back.
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His 17th minute goal in a 1-0 win against Bolton Wanderers this weekend was his third goal of the campaign – let’s look at his performance in more statistical detail.
Full-backs play an important part in Johnson’s system as he wants them to bomb forward and either create chances or get on the end of them – and that’s exactly what both Winchester and left-back Dennis Cirkin did on Saturday.
It was the latter who provided the cross for Winchester to tuck away and considering he wouldn’t usually be an attacking threat, the one-time Northern Ireland international is proving to be a real handful in the attacking third.
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Winchester didn’t actually have the greatest game in terms of an attacking sense, but he managed to provide two progressive runs which helped to get the ball up the pitch and create chances for the Black Cats.
On the defensive end of things though Winchester was very solid in keeping the dangerous Oladapo Afolayan quiet for the Trotters.
He won nine out of his 13 defensive duels and added to that with three interceptions and four recoveries, with many attacks coming down his side of the pitch.
Winchester has strong competition at right-back with the summer addition of Leeds United’s Niall Huggins – he is younger and a more naturally attacking player but it’s his place in the team to lose for now and if he carries on his contributions then he should be Johnson’s number one choice all season.