While Lee Johnson has seen his Sunderland side get off to a fantastic start in their 2021/22 League One campaign, with the Black Cats picking up 15 points over their opening six fixtures of the season, the suspension of Tom Flanagan presents the Mackems manager with something of a selection headache this weekend.
Indeed, the 29-year-old centre-back has been one of Sunderland’s standout performers over his six League One appearances so far this season, with the Northern Ireland international helping his side t0 keep one clean sheet, as well as averaging 1.3 interceptions, 1.3 tackles and 5.7 clearances and winning 7.7 duels per game.
As such, replacing the unavailable defender against Fleetwood Town this Saturday defender will certainly be a challenging task for the incoming centre-back, but the absence of Flanagan presents Johnson with the perfect opportunity to finally unleash summer loan signing Frederik Alves.
While the West Ham United loanee is yet to make a league appearance for Sunderland, the 21-year-old impressed over his 77 minutes on the pitch in the club’s 3-2 victory over Championship side Blackpool in the Carabao Cup, making four interceptions, one tackle and five clearances and winning 75% of his duels.
Furthermore, Alves also impressed over his 22 Superligaen appearances in his last full season with Danish side Silkeborg IF, helping them to keep three clean sheets, in addition to making 2.5 interceptions, 1.8 tackles and six clearances and winning 5.5 duels per match.
As such, it would certainly appear as if Alves has the ability to fill in for Flanagan this weekend, and a solid performance from the 21-year-old may even being enough to convince Johnson that he deserves to keep his place in the manager’s starting XI – something which could be a real game-changer for Sunderland this season.