When Bailey Wright suffered a season-ending injury last week there were huge concerns.
Not least from fans but also from Phil Parkinson who immediately entered the market to bring in Tommy Smith on a free transfer.
The Australian powerhouse had contributed to four clean sheets in just five matches after arriving from Bristol City on loan and he took to League One like a duck to water.
Given he’d previously succeeded in the Championship, it was a hardly a surprise.
How would Sunderland cope without the central defender though? There were various remedies Parkinson could have chosen, but his first one has already shown signs of paying off.
On Saturday, he brought Turkish defender Alim Ozturk back into the fray. The 27-year-old had been out of the side after Wright’s arrival but he showed few signs of rustiness against Bristol Rovers as Sunderland kept their superb defensive record intact.
Wright was previously a large part of that but his replacement could now also become key as well.
6 foot 3 Ozturk was described as “flawless” by Parkinson after the clash and it was easy to see why.
He was a colossal influence in aerial situations, winning as many as four-headed battles during the game, via WhoScored.
This statistic in particular, proved vital in making up for Wright’s absence. Since playing for the Mackems, he’d won 2.4 aerial duels per game but that aspect certainly wasn’t lost in the backline last weekend.
Ozturk may only have managed one tackle but that was symbolic of the sweeper type role he was playing as part of the three-man defence. That allowed him to carry the ball forward and play countless long balls forward towards Charlie Wyke in attack.
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The Turk registered as many as 12 while still maintaining a pass success rate of 79%. Given he rarely played the ball on the floor that was mightily impressive.
Missing Wright was a huge concern heading into the weekend but Ozturk has already battered away doubts that the Australian couldn’t be replaced. He more than stepped up to the plate.