Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson has a tough but welcome decision to make going forward. Last season’s number one Lee Burge, the young pretender showing enormous potential Anthony Patterson, and the German Ron-Thorben Hoffmann signed from Bayern Munich are set to battle it out to be Sunderland’s number one goalkeeper.
With three keepers at his disposal, Johnson now has a decision to make ahead of Saturday’s top of the table clash at home to Accrington Stanley and also for the rest of the season. Here is a look at the three goalkeepers who are in contention for the number one spot at Sunderland.
The Battle to Be Sunderland’s Number One Goalkeeper
Lee Johnson has spoken about how he wants his new-look Sunderland team to be comfortable playing out from the back with a keeper who is comfortable on the ball an important part of this. In new signing Ron-Thorben Hoffmann, Johnson could have found the perfect keeper to help implement his desired way of playing.
The 6ft 4in 22-year-old German signed on a season-long loan from Bayern Munich on transfer deadline day with an option to make the move permanent should the loan be successful. Speaking to safc.com, Lee Johnson spoke about his excitement that Hoffmann had signed: “Thorben is elite on the ball in terms of playing out from the back and he has great pedigree from his learning process and the way that German clubs coach, especially Bayern Munich.
“Like all young goalkeepers he has areas of his game to work on, but he’s agile and an outstanding shot-stopper in close quarters. We are really excited to add another quality goalkeeper to our stable, as we continue to drive competition and quality.”
21-year-old Patterson is a product of Sunderland’s academy. His impressive performances as he rose through the ranks of the youth and U23 teams saw him promoted to the first-team squad this summer and awarded a new two-year contract. The youngster experienced first-team action last season, playing twice in the EFL Trophy, a competition that the Black Cats went on to win.
Following his promotion to the first team this summer, Patterson played in several pre-season friendlies before taking to the bench for the start of the new season. An injury to Lee Burge in the warm-up prior to the recent game against AFC Wimbledon forced Patterson to make his first league start of his career. This season he has played four first-team games, two in the league and two in the Carabao Cup. The Black Cats have won all four of these games.
Signed two years ago, Burge became first-choice keeper last season under Phil Parkinson and then Lee Johnson. However, his inconsistent form led to Johnson dropping Burge before recalling him soon after. An experienced keeper at League One level, Burge played 160 games for Coventry City in League One and League Two before making the switch to Wearside.
A reliable shot-stopper but prone to a costly error, one of which cost Sunderland dearly in last season’s play-offs. He is an experienced keeper and knows this level of football well but, Burge could now have a huge battle on his hands to not only remain number one but to be selected for the upcoming matchday squads ahead of the two younger shot-stoppers vying to be Sunderland’s number one goalkeeper.
The Verdict on Sunderland’s Number One Goalkeeper
Lee Burge, despite being number one for the majority of last season, has shown that he is prone to costly errors. In a league that Sunderland are desperate to get out of, errors that lead to goals must be kept at a minimum.
Anthony Patterson, who has come through the ranks at the club, replaced Burge for the last two league games and has done little wrong. The 21-year-old could have a big future at the club; however, there are areas of his game that need to be worked on. His command of his area on crosses and his communication have raised concerns. This could be Patterson’s season to cement his place as the number two keeper and continue to progress.
Hoffman is relatively unknown amongst many in this country, but his presence and experience of playing and training with some of the best in the world at Bayern Munich can only have been of benefit. He has been brought in to help Lee Johnson’s playing philosophy, and it would, therefore, be a surprise if the Black Cats head coach decided to leave his new signing out of the first-team on Saturday.
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