This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Sunderland confirmed the signing of three youth prospects this week, and one of them could be the perfect long-term replacement for Lee Cattermole.
Cattermole is leaving Sunderland this summer after a decade with the club, saying: “I believe it is the right time to find a new challenge.”
The tough-tackling midfielder has of course slowed down with age, but his departure leaves a gaping hole in the centre of the park nonetheless.
It’s not all doom and gloom around the Stadium of Light though, as the Black Cats announced the arrivals of Ruben Sammut, Ahmed Abdelkader and Michael Collins earlier this week.
And Sammut, who has spent over a decade in Chelsea’s academy, has all the tools to fill Cattermole’s shoes.
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The 21 year-old is a defensive midfielder, playing with Chelsea’s youth teams since the age of eight. He won three consecutive FA Youth Cups with the Blues between 2014 and 2016 and has also won the UEFA Youth League with the club.
Sammut has limited experienced at the senior level, making just 16 appearances during a loan spell with Falkirk last season.
However, his stats from that spell suggest he is already developing into a fantastic young destroyer in the middle of the park, averaging a whopping 3.8 interceptions per 90 minutes.
This displays excellent reading of the game for such a young player, while he also completed 80% of his passes and 81% of his dribble attempts, per The Chronicle, showing he has the technical ability to progress the ball once he wins it back.
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One area he may need to improve is his goal threat, as even Cattermole learned how to get on the scoresheet in League One. The youngster’s expected goal (xG) average and expected assist (xA) average were both a measly 0.01.
Put simply, this means he is contributing absolutely nothing in the final third.
Still, at 21, with all the mental tools to read the game and play the shielding role in front of the defence, Sammut could make an impact on the first-team sooner rather than later, possibly developing into a tailor-made Cattermole replacement.