The horrorshow at Aston Villa proved to be a harsh reminder that we're not safe from the drop just yet. Aside from dropping three or even just one valuable point in the battle to avoid the drop, our goal difference was also decimated. It's not as bad as those around us, but it's still quite precarious.
Perhaps the worst thing to emerge from the game was Stephane Sessegnon's sending off. I myself have my doubts about whether it deserved a card and whilst he's not to blame for the result, Lee Probert didn't have one of his best days.
Sunderland have chosen to appeal and it's going to be reduced at best. I very much doubt it will be even that as while it didn't seem worthy of a red card, it's the kind of challenge that the FA frown upon, so we're likely to be without him for the remainder of the season.
So what can we do in his absence? Here we put forward some options on how to cope with one of the star players under Paolo Di Canio's reign thus far.
James McClean In The Middle
It's not a role he's particularly accustomed to, but he has done it before in a couple of experimental games for Ireland pre-Euro 2012. He didn't do too bad in it either. He's also played the role before whilst at Derry, although it remains to be seen whether that will count for anything what with the Premier League a world away from the League of Ireland.
It would be tempting to bring him in their given he's an attacking talent, but we'd be sacrificing his hard-working nature on the left hand side of midfield which allows Danny Rose to do what he does best in getting forward at will.
Adam Johnson In The Middle
With Johnson a bit wishy-washy this season when stuck out on the right, what would be the great harm in putting him in the middle? It's a move very akin to the above suggested McClean one, but Johnson does provide a little more refinement to his game and more creation of scoring chances. The major problem comes with how he will cope with a few more attempts at goal. We've seen this season him hit some sublime strikes (Newcastle Away) and some ridiculous (Chelsea, Villa and countless others).
I'd be tempted by Johnson though if only he seems to be able to find Danny Graham with some regularity.
Craig Gardner In The Middle
"What? He was awful against Villa and should never play again!" I hear you cry. Whilst part of that statement is true, he was awful, it's a case of needs must at the moment. He's also done it before to good effect in a Sunderland shirt. Don't we remember playing Stoke away when he was fantastic in tandem with Sessegnon? He's also likely to take even more shots on goal than either of the above, which could breed more goals.
It's perhaps an outside chance, but one maybe worth investigating this week in training.
A Straight 4-5-1
In this instance it's likely that we would either bring Jack Colback into the midfield and push Seb Larsson back out to an unfamiliar left midfield role. Alternatively we also bring back McClean at the expense of Larsson or simply just bring in McClean.
It would be the most negative of options, but perhaps the most effective. Next week against Stoke City we'll need Alfred N'Diaye dropping deep to pick up Peter Crouch or whoever is taking the lead role in Tony Pulis' production of Land Of The Giants this week, so this would allow Gardner to get forward more but not neglecting his defensive duties either.
Danny Graham might cut an isolated figure, but the pressure would be on McClean and Johnson to provide him with something, anything, to feed on and get a crucial goal or goals to fire us to safety.
Enter If You Dare The Presence Of... The Mandron
100 Geek Points on offer if you get the above reference. Moving on from that Mikael Mandron made a cameo appearance in the 6-1 defeat at Aston Villa and showed a couple of neat touches and almost got himself on the scoresheet with a late, late header which was well saved by Brad Guzan.
The problem here is that he is incredibly raw and starting him would be as huge a risk as previous managers have taken on the likes of Martyn Waghorn and Ryan Noble, neither of which have worked out too well.
Get Connor Wickham Some Deer Antler Spray
It worked for Ray Lewis anyway. In all seriousness though if there's any slight chance that Connor Wickham is fit enough to sit even on the bench for us, such is the need for points we should run him into the ground. Get the three points and get out of their.
He seems to be made of glass and gets injured quite often -- a worry for the rest of his career moving forward -- but needs must and if he gets a priceless winning goal for us he can have the final two weeks off to recover fully in time for next season. It's time for people to step up and play through the pain.
Literally Any Other Option
None of these are particularly likely, so don't take them with any seriousness. Could Jordan Laidler be the saviour of the season? Our Federico Macheda of sorts? Could it even be an in from the very, very cold Ryan Noble? Hell would almost certainly be on if it was him. Does this situation warrant an emergency loan, is that even still possible? I don't know, and I can't really be bothered to look but it seems very late for it to be possible so it's unlikely. Perhaps a 4-6-0 formation would work? No, no, that wouldn't work.
I'd be leaning towards pushing Johnson inside myself from the above options but what would you do? Vote in our poll or leave a comment, send a messenger pigeon, whatever you want...