Portsmouth transfers: Why ex-Sunderland and Millwall striker Aiden O’Brien’s versatility makes him a 'solid' signing ahead of proposed Blues move

Sunderland striker Aiden O’Brien’s versatility will make him a ‘solid’ signing ahead of his imminent Pompey arrival.

By Sam Cox
Monday, 31st January 2022, 5:20 pm
Updated Monday, 31st January 2022, 5:41 pm

That’s the belief of Sunderland Echo’s, Joe Nicholson, who’s given The News the lowdown on Danny Cowley’s latest recruit.

And here’s what Nicholson said on the ex-Millwall man

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‘O’Brien is someone who can play behind a striker as he’s quite versatile.

‘This season, he’s played through the middle, as a number 10 and on either flank, so he’s a very versatile player.

‘To be honest, this season, he’s been a very good squad player for Sunderland, but not someone who’s stood out to the point where you have to pick him every week.

‘His attitude has been very good, though.

Aiden O'Brien is set to sign for Pompey. Picture: Pete Norton/Getty Images

‘I remember speaking to him after he scored a hat-trick against Blackpool in the Carabao Cup second round and he hadn’t been playing in the league.

‘He came out and said he’d “been getting his head down and obviously wanted to play more football” but he understood the situation and he set out on working hard to get back in the team.

‘He didn’t cause any fuss, so he seems like a good character to have around the group, but he didn’t have that standout quality some of the other players in the Sunderland squad have had.

‘He actually looked set to join Doncaster on deadline day in the summer, which was all set to happen and then it fell through at the last minute.

‘But he has scored some important goals this season when he’s played or come off the bench.

‘Now Sunderland have brought in Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, he’s been surplus to requirements now.

‘He didn’t have enough star quality to become a first-team regular, but the type of character to give his all when he plays.

‘O’Brien is a good character around the dressing room.

‘Although his goalscoring record isn’t great, he hasn’t been an out-and-out striker you’d expect to get double figures.

‘He’s played out wide and in behind the striker, so he’s not been in a position where he’ll be getting loads of chances.

‘But I think he’ll be a solid signing for Pompey and someone who can step in and give his all when he plays.

‘When I spoke to him earlier in the season, he said he wanted to get into the box and score goals. And if he does play out wide, he’s the sort of player who plays more as an inside forward and is quite narrow.

‘He’s not really a natural winger who will get the ball and try to take someone on down the flank.

‘He’ll try and arrive late in the box from the wing and try to score more goals. It just hasn’t happened for him at Sunderland, because he hasn’t had a consistent run of games.

‘He’ll work hard for the team if he plays on the wing, so I think it could be a decent signing for Pompey.

‘O’Brien is 28 now and at the age where he wants to just play games and regularly, which he hasn’t had at Sunderland this season.

‘Because Sunderland have been playing a 4-2-3-1, he’s been playing in one of the positions behind the striker, so I’m unsure how he’d fit in Pompey’s wing-back system unless he plays behind two strikers.

‘I think there was an understanding between O’Brien and Lee Johnson.

‘The former knew where the club was going since Sunderland’s change of ownership and when Johnson came in, they very much identified younger players who could grow with the club.

‘And with O’Brien 28-years-old, he didn’t quite fit into that remit.

‘But he was never a player who would kick up a fuss, although disappointed in not playing as much as he would’ve liked.’

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