How Sunderland midfielder Luke O'Nien showcased his best and worst traits during Gillingham win

The Black Cats defeated Gillingham 2-1 at Priestfield on Saturday afternoon in League One.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 8:26 am

Luke O’Nien’s performance, though, once again polarised opinion amongst Sunderland fans.

Indeed, you could say the versatile midfielder has become Wearside’s own Mr Marmite.

One camp state he is a priceless asset who is able to play in multiple positions with superb character and a willingness to engage in the less attractive aspects of football.

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Luke O'Nien in action against Gillingham in League One on Saturday.

The other side of the coin, however, argue he loses the ball too much and lacks technical ability in his favoured midfield spot.

During Saturday’s clash against Gillingham, both sides of the argument were on display as O’Nien started alongside Dan Neil and captained the side.

And that added responsibility appeared to spur O’Nien on a little too much (see George Honeyman for similarities) when he needed to relax and play his natural game.

Perhaps it is a little harsh to single out O’Nien for Sunderland’s lacklustre display in the first half given most of Johnson’s starting XI underperformed.

But O’Nien’s showing was notable for the number of times he gave the ball away to allow Gillingham to wrestle momentum back from the visitors.

Yes, the 26-year-old worked hard and got stuck in, but overeagerness saw him catch Stuart O'Keefe and hand Gillingham a penalty.

O’Nien could have no complaints as he watched Danny Lloyd send Thorben Hoffmann the wrong way to put the home side 1-0 up.

Like Sunderland, though, O’Nien improved in the second half.

There was a neat ball forward to O’Brien on the edge of the area which could have come off has the Irishman not miscontrolled it.

And the midfielder’s tireless work rate allowed Sunderland a platform to see out the game.

O’Nien produced a stunning block late in the second half to deny Gillingham a goal and alleviate the relentless pressure.

The ex-Wycombe man also played a role in motivating his teammates in the dying embers.

He celebrated a late Carl Winchester tackle feverishly as the game painstakingly edged towards a close

It was a performance encapsulating the worst and best of O’Nien and he can undoubtedly play better.

Thankfully, his mistake didn’t cost Sunderland but it easily could have – and that is the worry fans have regarding O’Nien.

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