Lee Johnson discusses West Ham United loanee's progress and weighs up interesting new role
Lee Johnson believes Frederik Alves can make a big impact at Sunderland over the course of the season, and is preparing to hand him a midfield role at some stage over the coming weeks.
The centre-back has seen his gametime limited since joining from West Ham United on loan, primarily because his late arrival in the transfer window allowed Tom Flanagan and Callum Doyle to quickly build an impressive partnership.
Alves has impressed in two Carabao Cup wins, playing his part in a clean sheet at the DW Stadium last week.
Alongside Bailey Wright the Dane could come into contention for a first league start against Cheltenham Town on Tuesday night, with Sunderland monitoring a minor back problem to Callum Doyle.
Encouraged by Alves' progress, Johnson has said more bravery in possession is the next step for the defender.
"I think he's done well and I really like him," Johnson said.
"He's a really good athlete, in terms of physicality he's got a great leap and his recovery is quick.
"I think he's a little bit of an introvert and I don't think we've quite seen the best of his forward play yet. I think he's better on the ball than what he's shown so far but he hasn't really put a foot wrong in the two games he's played defensively.
"There's loads to work on as there is with any young defender, timing of headers, the dark arts, all those things.
"I'd like to see him in midfield as well.
"He can definitely play in holding midfield and that is an option, whether it be in a game or starting. We could potentially start him there in the Papa John's Trophy, and that's something we will discuss together.
"He's a flexible player with composure and good feet.
"We want to see a little more pitch personality from him in his forward play, just because I know how good he is and I see it every day in training. It's our job to keep encouraging that bravery to step out with the ball."
Sunderland are also monitoring Dennis Cirkin ahead of Cheltenham's visit, with the left-back suffering a suspected concussion against Bolton Wanderers.