TONY MOWBRAY is enthused by the potential of Sunderland’s deadline-day acquisitions Adil Aouchiche and Timothee Pembele, but will follow a tried-and-tested formula as he gradually integrates them into the first-team group.
Aouchiche, an offensive midfielder, signed a five-year contract with the Black Cats last month after leaving Lorient. Pembele, a right-back, also agreed to a five-year contract as part of his permanent move from Paris St Germain.
Neither player has prior experience playing in England, and given their ages of 21 and 20, Mowbray is understandably hesitant to anticipate too much too soon.
The Sunderland manager has extensive experience dealing with overseas youngsters, having assisted the likes of Abdoullah Ba and Jewison Bennette in settling on Wearside following moves from abroad, and will take a long-term approach as he looks to support and develop the Black Cats’ latest crop of emerging talents.
“They have to settle into the club, get a feel for it, and be patient,” Mowbray added. “We’ll see what happens and how quickly we can integrate them into the group.” We shouldn’t be sitting here anxiously thinking, ‘Get them on the team,’ because it might also undermine what we’ve been trying to accomplish.
“I think it’s a similar situation to the lads who came at the same time last year. Even Amad (Diallo) was one of them – we brought him on patiently in the first few months. Look at Abdoullah – he had such an effective game the other day, but it’s really taken him a year to get to that point.
“Jewison is the same. He still hasn’t really cracked through that ceiling of getting into the team, even though he’s shown his flashes. It takes time to acclimatise and become part of the group.
“There’s all the little things in life they have to do, and that we try to support them with. They might not really speak the language, they have to find a house, somewhere to live. If they’re driving, they probably think the cars are coming down the wrong side of the road.
“They’re young lads, and we have to give them time, I think. But they look like good footballers and they both need to play some footy. They need to play for our Under-21s and get up and running that way.”
Aouchiche boasts the greater experience of the duo, having made more than 80 senior appearances in the French top-flight. A product of PSG’s academy, he has represented both St Etienne and Lorient in Ligue 1 and won the Silver Ball award at the European Under-17 Championships in 2019 after scoring nine goals in five games.
“Adil played a bounce game against Hartlepool the other day,” Mowbray explained. “Technically, he’s a very good footballer.”
Pembele has made 37 senior games in Ligue 1, both for PSG and on loan at Bordeaux. He has played in the Champions League and for France at the Olympic Games.
“The young right-back, Timmy, looks fast, direct, positive, and exciting,” Mowbray added. “However, I have to try to fit him into a team where Trai Hume has been an outstanding footballer for us this year.” He doesn’t go blasting past Patrick Roberts, but he plays inside and feeds him, which works beautifully.
“There may be some games where we have to change our approach, and maybe we can move Patrick inside and let Timmy bomb on beyond him.” That is an option in the future, but we must remain patient.
“He’s been injured and isn’t in great shape.” He won’t be in the starting lineup (against QPR), but he’ll be close.”