Sunderland boss explains his view on whether Luke O'Nien could return to a defensive role
Lee Johnson has not ruled out using Luke O'Nien in a defensive role over the coming weeks, but says he is determined to keep in midfield wherever possible.
Sunderland' s search for reinforcements in the full back positions continues, with Johnson currently having no senior options on his books.
Despite that, the head coach has turned to Carl Winchester and Dan Neil ahead of O'Nien, who has played there on numerous occasions in previous campaigns.
Johnson confirmed earlier this summer that he had decided to use O'Nien primarily as a central midfielder this season, but added that his versatility was one of the key reasons why the club sanctioned a payrise to keep him amid interest from Championship sides.
While the current squad situation means a drop into the back four cannot be ruled out, Johnson says he is still eager to give the 26-year-old a proper run in the number eight role.
"I think there's a couple of trains of thought on that one," he said.
"The first is that we think he can be a top number eight for us, I think he will be.
"I think he'll get goals this year, he puts his foot on, he has the energy required for the role.
"I think that at times last year, you're robbing Peter to pay Paul in terms of attributes. That's probably something I went away and assessed and thought about over the summer.
"You think of our back four as it ended the season, we had Max Power ar right back, Luke with Bailey Wright, and then Lynden Gooch at left back. It's not something you want to keep doing, but we had to do that because of the circumstances we were in.
"It's something that, I've made that promise to Luke if you like [not to keep moving him], but with the caveat that his positional flexibility is one of the reasons why we committed to re-signing him.
"But at the same time, we've signed him as an eight.
"If you look at the squad, you're always looking for two players in each position and Luke's place in my squad on my laptop, is as a number eight."