This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Sunderland could be playing their football in the Championship next season, as they continue to impress in the race for promotion from League One.
Lee Johnson’s side are currently sat third in the League One table, and will fancy their chances of extending their unbeaten run, which has stretched to 11 matches in recent weeks.
One player that will be hoping he can challenge for a spot in Johnson’s starting XI next season is Elliot Embleton, with the midfielder catching the eye with some impressive showings whilst out on loan with Blackpool.
Embleton has made eight appearances in total for the Tangerines this season, and will be eager to continue to put in some strong performances from now until the end of this year’s campaign.
But do we think Embleton will be capable of challenging for a spot in the Sunderland starting XI next season when he returns to the Stadium of Light?
I think it’s going to be a tough call for Johnson to make in all honesty.
While Embleton has certainly impressed during his time at Bloomfield Road, it should not be forgotten that those midfielders who are still at Sunderland have played a big role in the Black Cats’ push for promotion to the Championship this season.
As a result, it could still be hard for Embleton to force his way back into the starting XI at the Stadium of Light, or for Johnson to justify making that alteration on the basis of the contributions of those others currently at the club.
Indeed, the prospect of Sunderland’s promotion to the Championship could also complicate things here, since there may be questions about whether Embleton can step up to that level, even with the form he has produced in League One recently, meaning it could be worth all parties keeping their options open with regards to this current situation.
I would imagine it depends what league Sunderland are in next season as to what happens with Embleton.
If the Black Cats get promoted to the Championship, I can see Johnson pursuing a proven number 10 for that level to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
That would leave Embleton out in the cold again, and for a player that is turning 22 next week he needs regular game-time.
If the worst was to happen and Sunderland failed to get promoted again this season, then I could see the midfielder playing a lot more – he’s proving himself to be a good pick-up by Blackpool on loan and minutes is what he needed to develop, and Sunderland would be silly not to utilise him going forward.
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You would have to say Embleton’s loan spell with Blackpool will have shown Johnson that he has the right sort of attributes to make a difference for the Black Cats and be a valued member of the squad next term. It has given him a chance to show what he can do when he has confidence and is given a run of games in the side to demonstrate some consistency in his performances.
Without the loan switch to Blackpool, Johnson might still have been unconvinced by the midfielder’s qualities. However, whilst it is likely he will be back in the squad next term at the Stadium of Light, the amount of regular starts he gets might depend on whether the club go on to earn promotion back to the Championship or not.
Were Sunderland promoted, Johnson might well want to add to the quality at his disposal in the middle of the park. That would potentially mean that Embleton might potentially have to settle for more of a supporting role from the bench. You would say though he has shown he might have the quality to step-up to the Championship.
However, the 21-year-old should now be right in and amongst the plans for next season if they are still in the third tier. Embleton will need to continue his improvements in the remaining matches of the campaign and if he can do that then Johnson has to consider him for next term.