Having already lost Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole to injury ahead of Saturday's tough away fixture at Manchester City, Sam Allardyce was dealt a further blow after learning Jack Rodwell would also miss the tie. Rodwell - who has started just six games this season - has reached the five bookings limit and misses the match through a one-game suspension.
It was something that came as a surprise to us all, including Allardyce, who didn't realise Rodwell had picked up so many bookings:
"I was surprised to learn he was suspended because he hasn’t played that much.
He has to control himself more because he did give away a lot of fouls at Chelsea and deserved to get booked.
He’s not tackling for the sake of winning the ball.
He keeps missing the ball and fouling the opposition player.
He has to show more control when he’s served this suspension.
But at least he’s beginning to show a little bit more of what we expected."
It says alot about the player's fitness, in my view. He's always stretching and making stupidly late tackles, which inevitably sees him pick up needless bookings.
At a time when we really need him he's picking up needless yellow cards - it doesn't reflect well on the lad. In terms of options available to Allardyce now, his choices are slim.
Gomez hasn't started a game for Sam Allardyce since the home loss last month against Southampton. With Rodwell, Cattermole and Larsson missing you'd suspect that Gomez is an absolute shoe in to start to the left of Yann M'Vila. If I'm honest I've been questioning why Gomez hasn't made the team in recent weeks, considering the level of performance that we've seen from Ola Toivonen.
I think even with the lack of options we have in that position I'd be looking at playing someone other than Toivonen on Saturday. He's just not good enough, simply put. He was substituted early again at Stamford Bridge and you have to think that his chances to show what he brings to the side are running out.
Instead of putting square pegs in round holes, how about we put round pegs in round holes?
Liam Agnew is one of the standouts of the Sunderland under 21's side and under normal circumstances perhaps I wouldn't be advocating his inclusion in the side but, with so many first team players unavailable, Allardyce has to look into his youth teams to see if anyone there is ready to step up.
Agnew's only experience with the first team has been in pre-season friendlies and in the FA Cup win over Fulham last February.
Having to chase down the likes of Toure and Fernandinho on Saturday is an unenviable task but the question is - can playing Agnew be any more detrimental to the team that starting Ola Toivonen? I'd argue not.
Despite not enjoying a particularly brilliant season thus far Johnson is another option to look at. If we were at home and spending the majority of time on the front foot I don't think I'd mind playing him so much, but the fact that whoever plays in that middle three will be required to spend large periods of the game chasing down and running and that's just not his game. That said, a base of M'Vila and Gomez with Johnson just in front is something I can see Big Sam going along with, all circumstances considered.
For me, Ola Toivonen has to be dropped. He just does not offer enough, particularly in central midfield, and I don't fancy him to have any sort of positive impact when his primary job on Saturday will be to chase after players much better than him.
That said, the options aren't great. Our best hope is to catch Manchester City on the counter and pack our midfield with the likes of Borini and Watmore as they'll cover plenty of ground, close down and work hard.