Tony Mowbray urged to replace Dan Neil with powerful 21-year-old vs Stoke city

Sunderland will be missing midfielder Dan Neil against Stoke after he was sent off against Middlesbrough.
Sunderland made an unexpected push into the play-offs after being promoted from League One last season, and a similar story is happening this time.

With six wins from their first 11 games, the Black Cats are salivating at the potential of promotion, despite a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of North East rivals Middlesbrough last time out.

A humbling defeat against a rival is obviously a tough pill to swallow, but the worst letdown was the red card shown to Dan Neil in the first half, which gave Boro the upper hand in the game.

Tony Mowbray will be without the suspended midfielder ahead of their trip to Stoke, which has delivered them a big blow.

How did Dan Neil fare this season?

Neil is the enforcer in Sunderland’s midfield, as evidenced by his technical prowess in demanding the ball from his defense and spraying short and long passes.

There aren’t many others, if any, in the division who can command the tempo of a match quite like him. He’s a forward-thinker in possession and a critical piece in Mowbray’s fast-paced attacking football.

According to FBref data, Neil is currently among the most skilled deep-lying playmakers in the Championship this season. He ranks in the top 1% for progressive passes, the top 4% for passes into the final third, the top 11% for pass completion, and the top 25% for assists compared to players in his position. These statistics illustrate that the 21-year-old player consistently takes calculated risks with his passes, avoiding simple plays to ensure each action serves a specific purpose.

Drawing comparisons to Michael Carrick by talkSPORT’s Neil Danter in terms of his ability to control the game, Neil possesses other standout qualities. His exceptional ball-carrying abilities are particularly notable, as he ranks in the top 4% for successful take-ons, the top 16% for progressive carries, and the top 13% for carries into the final third.

Former Black Cats player Stephen Elliott has praised Neil, highlighting his qualities as an ideal central midfielder. Neil’s average Sofascore rating of 7.23 is the fourth highest in the Mowbrays squad this season, trailing only Pierre Ekwah, Bradley Dack, and Jack Clarke.


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Notably, Pierre Ekwah, who may replace him against Stoke after recovering from injury, is considered an important contributor to Sunderland’s midfield.

Ekwah sustained an injury in a match against Queens Park Rangers in September, and Sunderland has felt the absence of his robust and aggressive midfield performances. Fortunately, he is set to return this weekend, as reported by the Sunderland Echo, having resumed training during the international break.

Journalist Phil Smith has lauded Ekwah as a “monstrous” presence on the field. This 21-year-old has been operating in a deeper role this season, securing possession in front of the backline, thus allowing Neil to exert greater creative influence in the offensive plays.

The partnership between Ekwah and Neil has been robust, and they have both started in each of Sunderland’s first six Championship fixtures. Ekwah has proven himself as a formidable tackler, averaging 1.3 interceptions, 1.7 tackles, and 7.3 balls recovered per game according to Sofascore.

Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall, he possesses the physical attributes and presence that have been sorely missed by manager Mowbray. Consequently, it’s possible that the experienced manager might choose to reinstate Ekwah in the team against Stoke, potentially replacing Neil.

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