Why Sunderland pursued Nectarios Triantis deal despite Crystal Palace and Stoke interest and what to expect

A tactical breakdown on new Sunderland signing Nectarios Triantis following his transfer from Central Coast Mariners.
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Sunderland have acted quickly in this summer’s transfer window and had a list of criteria when searching for a new centre-back.

As has been their policy in recent years, the Black Cats were looking for a young asset who could grow with the club and increase in value.

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They also wanted a defender who was comfortable in possession who could also stand up to the physical demands of playing Championship football.

Their search led them to Australian centre-back Nectarios Triantis, who also attracted interest from a number of UK clubs including Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Of course the 20-year-old isn’t the finished article after just one season of regular senior football with A-League side Central Coast Mariners, who lifted the title with a resounding 6-1 win over Melbourne Victory earlier this month.

Yet Sunderland believe Triantis has the attributes they are looking for to have long-term success on Wearside.

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We’ll start with the defensive side of the Australian’s game, and at 6 ft 2 he has the physical build you’d expect a centre-back to have.

During the 2022/23 A-League season, Triantis won 72.15% of his defensive duels (according to Wyscout), the 11th highest success rate in the division. His one-on-one defensive qualities were particularly impressive, with attacking players rarely getting past the 20-year-old.

Below are screenshots from the A-League final when Melbourne City threatened to open the scoring with an early counter attack, which Triantis prevented by thwarting the division’s top scorer Jamie Maclaren.

Triantis’ committed approach did at times come at a cost, though, with the centre-back receiving 10 yellow cards (no reds) in 26 A-League appearances last term.

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Despite his height, the 20-year-old could also improve his presence in the air, after winning 53.7% of his aerial duels during the last campaign.

Yet on the ground Triantis played a big part in the Mariners’ build-up play, receiving an average of 38.15 passes per 90 minutes.

As a right-footed centre-back who has predominantly played in a back four, the Australian appears comfortable playing the ball forward into either channel.

Last season Trantis was ranked sixth in the A-League for long passes played per 90 minutes (8.15), with the centre-back averaging 7.46 passes (per 90 minutes) into the final third.

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Below is an example of Triantis stepping out from the back during the A-League semi-final second leg against Adelaide United, before switching the ball to the left and getting his side on the attack.

The defender won’t receive as much time on the ball in the Championship, but will be helped by a youthful Sunderland side with players who regularly show for the ball.

Triantis may also have to bide his time during his first season on Wearside, after Dan Balland and Danny Batth formed an effective centre-back partnership earlier this year, while Luke O’Nien also impressed in that position for large parts of the campaign.

Still, Triantis is a player who should add the required competition and back-up in the heart of Sunderland’s defence, while having the potential to become a first-team regular during his four-year contract on Wearside.