Sunderland writer verdict on Luke O'Nien's future - and his best position
Luke O’Nien is one of four key senior players Sunderland are trying to tie down to a new deal.
The versatile ex-Wycombe Wanderers man has turned out in a number of positions for Sunderland ending the 2020-21 campaign in central defence as injuries hit Lee Johnson’s options.
But should O’Nien sign a new deal, what is his best position? Our team of SAFC writers deliver their verdicts.
Phil Smith: ‘I think it's time to give him a proper run in central midfield.’
O'Nien was excellent in that second leg against Lincoln City and I think it was a timely reminder of just how good a job he did standing in at centre back.
His distribution from that position was badly missed in the first half and you could even argue his partnership with Dion Sanderson was as good as any Sunderland have had at this level.
Even so, I think it's time to give him a proper run in central midfield.
He'll be better for his spell in defence, and he seems like the perfect fit for the style of play that the club have said they are determined to implement.
He's a good finisher, too, better than he gets credit for, and has real aerial ability.
He will press well but I think he can make a decent goalscoring contribution in the right environment, too.
Mark Donnelly: ‘Here’s hoping an agreement can be reached over fresh terms.’
Johnson has made no secret of the fact that he believes O'Nien would play the vast majority of his games under his management as a midfield.
Indeed, you need only think of the home win over Doncaster Rovers - one of Sunderland's best performances of the season - and the impact the former Wycombe man made in the engine room that day.
While he has excelled in the backline this term, his energy and enthusiasm would undoubtedly be a big asset in midfield as the club look to implement Johnson's high-pressing style.
It's not just O'Nien's undoubted quality on the pitch that means Sunderland are desperate to tie him down to a new deal this summer.
His off-field demeanour and character is exactly what the club will need as they look to start on an upward trajectory.
Here's hoping, therefore, that an agreement can be reached over fresh terms.