Paddy McNair's Season Lay-Off
For a Sunderland squad with clear limitations, the news that Paddy McNair will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured cruciate ligament is, of course, not exactly great news.
McNair pulled up just before half-time in Saturday's victory against Hull City. But, he didn't leave the field of play until the 88-minute mark.
Certainly it's not unheard of for athletes and footballers to carry-on for some time with a cruciate ligament injury. The extent of the problem depends on the severity of the damage, and footballers are often able to twist, turn and run with such injuries for a while.
But, there may be some questions to ask internally if the club's physiotherapy and medical staff missed McNair's initial injury and he was then allowed to continue following the half-time break until nearly the end of the game when he finally broke down.
In truth, the blow is greater for Northern Ireland than a Sunderland squad devoid of midfield talent which has, in part, been characterised by McNair this season.
Still only 21, the Ballyclare-born international has been utilised in a variety of positions during his three month spell at the Stadium of Light.
Indeed when McNair signed for David Moyes in August, he was described as "versatile" and capable of operating in defence or midfield. And that seems to have defined his seven appearances in a Sunderland shirt.
McNair started the match against Hull City on Saturday to the left of the central midfield axis with Didier Ndong, as he did away at Bournemouth two weeks prior.
But, his previous appearances have included a stint out-wide on the left against Stoke City and for the visit of West Bromwich Albion, and a spell on the right of central-midfield in the Wear-Tees derby.
McNair has said that he doesn't see himself as a defender, and it has been in the middle of the park that he has turned out for Northern Ireland; but manager David Moyes has also described him as an 'attacking midfielder'.
Regardless, McNair's absence will force Moyes to shuffle the pack for the trip to Anfield on Saturday. And if the midfield has looked 'better' in recent weeks, that may be more a reflection of the opposition than the options available at Sunderland's disposal.
Jack Rodwell could be over the hamstring injury which has ruled him out of the squad for the last two games, and Sebastian Larsson must be ready for first team action after impressing in two Under-23 fixtures since his recovery from a knee ligament problem. The game will likely come too soon for Jan Kirchhoff, but Moyes may consider that the big German would benefit from a spot on the bench.
Jason Denayer - He Likes It Here
Speaking of midfield options - Jason Denayer has proved to be something of a success in the middle of the park in Sunderland's last two games. The Manchester City man was a deadline-day loan addition to David Moyes' panicked transfer window.
The 21-year-old Belgian was a late introduction into the game at Bournemouth and did what was asked of him - he busied himself protecting the back four.
And such was his aptitude in the role, he was handed a starting spot in Saturday's victory over Hull City in a Kirchhoff-esque role, lying deep - offering energy and physical presence at the back of the midfield.
In truth, Denayer's style in such a role is not strictly Kirchhoff-ean. Where Jan has poise, passing ability and sublimely-timed tackling, Jason Denayer is more energetic, full of bustle and gets a foot in. But, he looks a class-act.
And so the timing of the Sun suggesting that Denayer wants to stay at Sunderland beyond this season's loan spell is perfect, but curious all the same - a little too perfect perhaps.
The Sun quote a 'City Insider' who says:
Jason is being kept in the dark over his future at Sunderland, but he likes it up there.
He is keen to down his permanent roots somewhere. He doesn’t know if they will go in for him just yet though.
The issue with the whole thing surrounds the future of David Moyes, but results have picked up for him recently.
Denayer has previously had loan spells at Celtic and Galatasaray; and by all accounts he fully expected a return to Turkey on transfer deadline day before Pep Guardiola blocked the move and facilitated a switch to Sunderland instead.
The Evening Chronicle recently reported that Galatasaray were keen to interrupt Denayer's loan-spell at Sunderland and whisk him back to Istanbul in January. In truth, the Newcastle-based newspaper had probably simply mis-translated some Turkish articles on Galatsaray fan-sites wishing he would return.