Sunderland Focus – Wickham eager to impress after a good showing with England U-21s

Sunderland head into their next few fixtures looking to continue their solid start to the season. After just two games they sit in 13th place, just outside the top half of the Premier League and hoping to climb up the table with some good results in their upcoming matches. With their two biggest summer signings making an immediate impact in the last game, the Mackems will also need some contributions from some of their other players, with Connor Wickham one of them.

The Black Cats boast a number of fine options upfront, especially with the arrival of Stephen Fletcher and the vastly experienced Louis Saha. In addition to these two, Stephene Sessegnon also plays as a striker on occasions while Frazier Campbell will likely be anxious to break into the team after numerous injuries since his England call-up earlier in the year. With the presence of youngsters Ryan Noble and Ji Dong-Won, scorer of two goals in 19 appearances last season, fans have to wonder from where Wickham’s opportunities will come.

The good news for Wickham is he has shown excellent form for the England Under-21 team in recent games. He will be hoping for a chance to show this form for the Mackems and convince Martin O’Neill that he is deserving of a run in the starting XI. His winning goal against Norway will serve his cause well as he not only scored a class effort but also seemed in good touch as well. He looked sharp in his last match and fans will be hoping O’Neill is at least considering giving him a run in the side.

Wickham’s style of play is certainly suitable for Premier League football. Physically mature beyond his age, Wickham has the size, strength and pace to be effective at this level. As he showed with the Under-21s, he is a handful when he uses his speed and strength to attack defenders who struggle to cope with his aggression. A partnership with Fletcher might a good fit for Wickham as their style of play contrast enough to keep defenders on their toes. Both Fletcher and Wickham are good in the air and relatively physical but Wickham may provide a little more raw ferocity to Sunderland’s front line.

The challenge for Wickham is convincing O’Neill to take a chance on him despite his relative lack of experience. The knock on Wickham has never been his talent but more his lack of seasoning. This however cannot be solved without a chance to gain some experience through regular playing time. Although a loan spell is a possibility, it is likely Wickham would prefer to compete at the highest level for the team he signed with last year.

No doubt O’Neill will have some decisions to make regarding the immediate future of Wickham. A loan move is an option but at some point an opportunity for first team action will be necessary to ensure their investment in this young starlet pays off.

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