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Why Lens Has To Start Against Swansea

Although Jeremain Lens hasn't particularly prospered under Big Sam he showed improvement at Arsenal on Saturday. Should he start against Swansea, at the expense of Adam Johnson?

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Its obvious isn't it? Jeremain Lens has to return to the starting line up against Swansea City. Yes, his commitment to the cause can be questioned, yes his defensive responsibilities have seemed lacking at times but his quality is there for all to appreciate. The Arsenal game reminded us that Lens has the ability, he just needs the right man management to coax it out.

You could, if you so wished, launch similar criticism towards Adam Johnson too. However, whilst Johnson has typically shone in short bursts during his time on Wearside, he has been absolutely abject of late. For that reason, allied to the improvements the Dutch attacker showed at the Emirates, Lens should get his turn against the Swans at Johnson's expense. The Boro lad, you might say, is having one of his more fallow spells and we don't have the luxury of being able to carry him at the moment.

Unfortunately, Johnson hasn't really been on top form since his return from injury and of course there are his on going off the field problems, which surely aren't helping matters either.  The game against Aston Villa seemed to pass him by. He didn't harry players, nor did he mark particularly well either. Frankly, he was largely ineffective save for the cross for Defoe, which secured the second goal. I would even argue that although the ball reached the striker there was quite a bit for Defoe still to do. It certainly wasn't a defence splitting ball following a moment of visionary genius by any stretch of the imagination. Johnson was given eons of time by a very poor Villa side and lumped it up field in the general direction of his team mate. Luckily, it fell to Defoe who made more out of it than he was entitled to and set us on the right course for victory.

Lens, against Arsenal, demonstrated a more determined side to his personality. We hadn't been used to seeing this under Advocaat. Take his goal out of the equation for a moment and there was still more bite and grit to his game than Johnson has given us of late - he even tracked back too. Yes these are assets that Allardyce and indeed supporters should expect to see as a bare minimum but sadly, for whatever reason; players haven't always been able to show us this at Sunderland during recent years. We need to hope that the display Lens produced on Saturday was something he is capable of recreating on a more consistent basis and not just a flash in the pan.

As we know, Allardyce decided to drop Lens shortly after his appointment as manager. He did this for the right reasons. However, presumably since that time the former PSV star has had the opportunity to see what it takes to be a consistent performer in the Premier League. If he can capture the essence of that on the pitch going forward then by default he also becomes a regular under Sam Allardyce. However we won't know for sure that he's grasped just what is required of him until he is allowed another run in the side - let's give him a chance.

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