The former Brighton winger has played just 80 minutes of action in 2015, and has not started a game since New Year’s Day. Having arrived in the summer for a £2.5 million deal, per the Daily Mail, it was expected that the English winger would play a vital role this season.
Due to the Black Cats excessively defensive style, when Buckley has been fit he has proved his worth. Often acting as something of an attacking outlet, the winger is tasked with taking the ball as far into the opposition half as possible. He has fulfilled this role with diligence, and Poyet told the Chronicle that Buckley’s absence will limit the options in his squad.
“You have different players in your squad because you’re looking for certain abilities in certain games,” the ex-Chelsea man said. “Bucka [Buckley] in particular is the quickest player we have got and the most direct on the ball.
“There are games when you have to defend for long periods and you’re a little bit deeper than you would like, so you need players who can take you up the pitch on their own and Bucka is that player.”
The winger is certainly a big loss for the Wearside club, but Poyet’s insistence that he is the only option to play that role is short-sighted. Not only is there another option, this option is actually better suited to that role than the Englishman.
Ricardo Alvarez has played even fewer games than Buckley this season, and he has not impressed during his loan spell from Internazionale. Questions have been raised regarding his fitness, but he is actually a far better winger than Buckley.
In terms of playing the role of attacking outlet, one needs to have good ball control, be able to successfully dribble the ball, and show adeptness at passing the ball to teammates, so as to guarantee that all the work running up the pitch does not go to waste.
Alvarez is far better than Buckley at all three of those key areas, and statistically it can be proved in two of them.
|Successful Dribbles||Total Passes||Passing Accuracy|
Not only has Alvarez completed nine more dribbles than Buckley, despite playing fewer games, he also has a far higher pass completion rate, off only three less attempted passes. He is both more involved than the Englishman during play, and is actually better at keeping Sunderland on the offence than Buckley.
Poyet may prefer Buckley as a player to Alvarez, but there is no denying that the Argentine is far more adept at the role of winger that Poyet has laid out in his team. Whilst he may blame the Black Cats’ poor form on the injury to Buckley, if he looked at his own team he would realise the perfect replacement is raring to go.