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Midfield Dilemma Beckons For Poyet

Sunderland currently employ four front-line midfielders who're all pushing their claims for just three spots in the starting line-up, with a fifth Liam Bridcutt seemingly playing a back-up role these days. We look at the statistics behind the season in an attempt to settle on the performers best-suited to the task at this early stage of proceedings.

Nigel Roddis

There's four midfielders vying for three spots in the middle of the park for Sunderland and, after seven Premier League games, Gus Poyet should be getting close to knowing exactly who his preferred trio is.

Poyet's preference is to utilise three central midfielders, with one deep-lying in front of the back four. This creates a situation where he must decide between the four usual contenders in the shape of Jack Rodwell, Lee Cattermole, Jordi Gomez and Sebastian Larsson. Whomever he selects, there's always going to be an odd man out and looking at the latest statistical information, it quickly becomes apparent where the major question mark lies.

Lee Cattermole is top of the stats in relation to the defensive side of the game, with his name sitting top of the pile in relation to interceptions and clearances, while he's joint-top with both Rodwell and Larsson on total tackles won. He's also participated in more minutes than any of his three midfield team-mates.

When looking at the attacking facts and figures, Seb Larsson sits atop the standings with most successful passes, but he's also still fond of a backward pass, too. However, it's telling that he's created by far the most chances for others, which suggests his influence has been much stronger this term in the final third.

While Cattermole is a smidgen ahead of the Swede in total forward passes, Seb is a close second. Larsson also has more goal assists than anyone else, plus he's way ahead in the key passes column, which all goes to showcase his ability to have an effect at both ends of the field in the archetypal box-to-box midfielder mould.

So, that cements Cattermole in his defensive lynchpin role and Larsson on the right-hand side of the midfield triangle on current form, leaving former Manchester City man Jack Rodwell and Spaniard Jordi Gomez to fight it out for the remaining slot.

Firstly, it must be pointed out that Rodwell has played 443 minutes to Gomez's 189 in domestic league action up to this stage, so the former Everton starlet Rodwell should be ahead in the numbers game theoretically. However, certain stats suggest otherwise.

Gomez leads the way between the two on chances created, assists and shot accuracy. On the other hand, Rodwell has attempted more total shots and has a league goal to his name, but is only marginally ahead in the amount of successful passes he's completed, as well as total forward passes made.

Rodwell's personal stats show that he isn't having much impact in the final third as a creator, whereas Gomez has made excellent use of his limited time on the pitch. If the former Espanyol star is capable of creating double the amount of chances having been involved for less than half the time comparatively, then perhaps he should be handed an opportunity to enjoy a run of starts in the team to see how much damage he can inflict.

The position most often occupied by Rodwell is designated for an attack-minded, creative footballer who can open the door for the forwards to get in on goal. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the £10million man, he hardly had a sniff at Manchester City throughout two years on their books and is still getting up to speed with the frenetic nature of regular top-flight football.

However, that doesn't really help Sunderland's cause at this point in time and, from a purely objective standpoint, it seems only right that Jordi Gomez is given the nod over his more illustrious peer for the foreseeable future having helped the Black Cats to a first league win in his opening Premier League start of the season against Stoke City.

Should Gomez join Larsson and Cattermole in the midfield for an extended spell, then it should trigger sufficient motivation for Rodwell to step up his game in a bid to force his way back into the reckoning. That competition is vital and should be the catalyst for better performances from Rodwell as the campaign unfolds.