Inside an encouraging Sunderland debut for Rangers loanee Jordan Jones and what it tells us about Lee Johnson's plans for his side

It was almost the perfect introduction.

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 5:34 pm

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jordan Jones was quiet in the opening moments of his full Sunderland debut.

The Rangers loanee had played since October, and this was an entirely new system and group to settle into.

Then there was the fact that, unsurprisingly, Russell Martin's MK Dons side were mostly in control of possession during the early exchanges.

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Sunderland winger Jordan Jones

Just before the ten-minute mark, though, Jones showed what his game is about.

Sunderland won the ball and Jones picked up just inside the MK Dons half. Head down, he burst through the middle of the pitch, escaping three MK Dons players as he headed for the edge of the area.

Jack Diamond was inches away from getting to the through ball, and would have been presented with the simplest of finishes to give his side the lead.

Through the first half Jones was never quite able to replicate the success of that first real move, but his willlingness to take players on was notable. Though MK Dons were able to just about clear their lines on the occasions that followed, it was a lively enough cameo from a player clearly well short of full match fitness.

Shortly before his debut was brought to an end around an hour into the contest, his driving run from deep in his own half bought a free-kick and a valuable opporunity for his team to regroup after a spell of MK Dons pressure.

His arrival, and his debut performance, reflected one of Lee Johnson's main priorities in the early days of what he hopes is a long Sunderland tenure.

After watching his side labour to defeat against Wigan Athletic on his first afternoon in the job, Johnson identified getting speed into his side as absolutely key.

Jack Diamond's breakthrough performance at Lincoln City a week later gave him one option, and now Jones hands him another.

The profile of Sunderland's gameplan is evolving.

In the early stages of this season, they were a resilient and often powerful side, but one with very little counter-attacking threat.

They created chances from the wide areas but it was invariably from switching play out to the wing-backs. It was threatening at times, but could often be laboured and easy to defend against it.

Johnson is slowly building a side that is at its most threatening when in the transition from defence to attack.

Aiden McGeady is getting sharper by the game, and clearly relished driving at weary legs in the latter stages of this game. That the MK Dons backline was looking increasingly leggy offered a reflection of some of the work Jones had done.

The challenge for Johnson is one of balance and the question is whether playing two wingers of the profile of Jones and Diamond gives him enough control in a 4-2-2-2 system.

Particularly at home, offering more composure and threat from central areas is going to be key to unlocking deep-lying defences.

Johnson appears to have more work to do here than he does on the road, where Sunderland already look a very dangerous side when the opposition feel greater pressure to try and impose themselves on the game.

So it was a relatively quiet debut in the main, but one that reflected the broader overhaul Johnson is looking to implement.

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