Sunderland boss discusses West Ham United loanees' development and limited gametime ahead of January decision

Lee Johnson has said he is in regular dialogue with West Ham United as Frederik Alves continues to try and force his way into the league side.

Saturday, 4th December 2021, 9:06 am

The 22-year-old is yet to start a League One game for the Black Cats after arriving on loan late in the summer window.

While the Danish youth international has impressed in some cup outings, he has struggled to force his way past Johnson’s other central defenders in the pecking order.

West Ham United will have the option to review the loan come the January window, with Johnson saying that the decision will have to be ‘right for all parties’.

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Frederik Alves in Papa John's Trophy action

However, he stressed that he is continuing to work very closely with Alves and stressed that he is just one injury away from assuming a crucial position in the team.

With full back and central midfield options limited due to injury, Johnson is set to continue with a 5-3-2 shape that could lead to an opening for a ball-playing defender.

“To be fair the dialogue with West Ham is good and pretty consistent,” Johnson said when asked about Alves’ situation.

“We fill out forms for them in terms of his progression, the physical data goes back to them.

“Ricky Martin, the head of their academy, I speak to on a regular basis and I have conversations with David Moyes, probably more on a quarterly basis.

“We’ll have to see what happens in January, and it’s got to be right for everyone.

“In the meantime we’ll do our very best, as will Frederik, to try and improve his game, and the reality is he is only one injury away from starting, simple as that.”

Johnson also opened up on the areas of Alves’ game where he thinks there can still be more to come.

While impressed with his performances in Sunderland’s run to the Carabao Cup quarter final, the head coach says that he believes that the talented defender can offer more cutting edge in possession.

He also says he has been working closely with the defender on his defensive work, particularly key in a League One environment.

“He’s got some real attributes, Frederik,” Johnson said.

“As an athlete and a sweeper if you like, the speed he’s got and the grace with which he moves across the ground is very good.

“I’d like to him to focus on that sort of body contact, individual duels and winning the first headers, enjoying the physical side of the game, which is what we’ve been focusing on recently.

“But also to really bring out his technical attributes in games, there are times when I think he plays a bit safe and we can encourage him to bring out those technical qualities, to drive into the space with the ball, hit those diagonals, switches of play.

“That’s just a confidence that we want to coax out of him.

“Listen, he’s played well in the Carabao Cup games, QPR away was an example of a very good performance.

“Naturally he’ll be frustrated with his gametime, but you’ve always got an opportunity to impress.”

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