Aji Alese returned to the starting lineup for Sunderland in their Championship match against Millwall, marking his first start for the team since January.

Throughout this season, Sunderland defender Aji Alese has faced numerous challenges, but he seems poised to move forward after a campaign marred by injuries. The 23-year-old underwent thigh surgery last summer after experiencing a recurrence of an injury sustained in February of the previous year. Despite this setback, he has only managed six appearances in the Championship this season. However, Alese’s promising displays upon joining Sunderland from West Ham initially earned him recognition, leading the club to extend his contract until 2027 with a new deal offered last month.

Following a cautious recovery process, Alese received his first start for Sunderland since January in their 1-0 defeat against Millwall at the Stadium of Light. Despite the loss, the 23-year-old’s performance stood out as one of the few positive aspects on an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the Black Cats.


Aji Alese - SAFC


Deployed on the left side of a back three, Alese seamlessly adjusted to the role, benefiting from his natural left-footedness and previous experience primarily as a center-back during his time at West Ham. While at Sunderland, he has seen more action as a left-back, providing the flexibility for the Black Cats to alter their formation in the second half of matches.

In both defensive positions, Alese has demonstrated his worth to Sunderland, showcasing his height, strength, and readiness to join the attack when the opportunity arises. Despite limited scoring opportunities for either team in the Millwall fixture, Alese displayed his offensive capabilities by pushing past winger Jack Clarke and attempting a low cross, ultimately resulting in a corner kick for Sunderland.

It’s understandable that there were a few moments of rustiness, notably with the defender losing possession in the lead-up to Millwall’s goal. However, despite this setback, it was an overall promising performance from the former West Ham player.

In the upcoming final two Championship matches of the season against Watford and Sheffield Wednesday, Alese will aim to build confidence, with less pressure on these games as Sunderland’s status in the Championship for next season is secured. A full pre-season this summer will be immensely beneficial for the defender, providing him with the opportunity to further develop. With this preparation, Sunderland can expect to have a valuable asset in Alese for the foreseeable future.

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