David Moyes' usual Friday pre-match press conferences have become a time where we as Sunderland fans get to learn about the latest casualty within the ranks on Wearside.
However, last week's presser saw the manager reveal that, along with Sebastian Larsson and Jan Kirchhoff, a Fabio Borini return could also be on the horizon in the near future. The Italian forward has been sidelined since August with a groin injury, which he picked up after taking a pretty awful free-kick against Southampton - an injury that summed up everything about our fortunes at the time.
Fast-forward two months and Borini is on course for an early comeback, with the 25-year-old beginning light training after recovering from surgery on a torn groin ligament.
Borini looked sharp in pre-season, bagging three goals and Sunderland had hoped that the former Liverpool man would finally show his goalscoring potential this season. The Black Cats however, have been without their £8-million man since the third match of the season and now with the ever-promising partnership of Victor Anichebe and Jermain Defoe up top, just where does Fabio Borini fit into David Moyes’ plans?
Sunderland’s new formidable duo have begun to start a prospering partnership and the club have reaped the benefits, claiming back-to-back victories earlier this month for the first time this season. With David Moyes shifting from a 4-5-1 formation to a 4-3-1-2 to cater Anichebe and Defoe, you have to wonder where Fabio Borini will fit in this new and relatively successful style of play. Borini is foremost a striker who can also be used on either wing if needed, giving David Moyes another option to fill the roles Anichebe and Duncan Watmore are currently occupying.
Sunderland are simply not defensively astute enough to cope with four strikers on the field so one of the front three of Defoe, Anichebe and Watmore would have to be dropped to accomodate Borini, but who?
You’d presume that Jermain Defoe was untouchable, consdiering he has 150 premier league goals to his name and is the club’s leading goalscorer, again; So, that leaves us with Victor Anichebe and Duncan Watmore.
Big Vic, signed on a free transfer largely due to Borini’s injury on the eve of transfer deadline day, has been nothing short of spectacular since arriving on Wearside. Three goals in five appearances for Sunderland is a return that not many had predicted when Anichebe arrived on a free transfer after being released by West Bromich Albion at the end of last season. Whilst, Anichebe remains in this form it is hard to see Borini shifting the big man from his starting spot, especially when Anichebe is only two goals away from equaling Borini’s goalscoring return from the whole of last season at five strikes.
The third attacker in this thriving formation is young stalwart Duncan Watmore who has matured greatly since bursting on the scene 12 months ago. The youngster is yet to bag a goal this season but has two assists to his name in thirteen appearances, the same amount Borini managed playing in a similar role last season. Arguably Watmore’s greatest asset to our side is his endavour and his pace, which enables the 22-year-old to carry the ball and team high up the pitch very quickly.
So, where does this leave Fabio? The Italian has a poorer goals ratio than Defoe and Anichebe and a poorer assist ratio to Watmore and Defoe. For a striker, 25 goals in 121 career appearcnes is a very poor record, although half of those have came during 47 outings in the red and white of Sunderland. Borini, 25, is entering the prime years of his career and will be wanting first-team football, however, if the front three of Sunderland continue to perfrom as they have been in recent weeks, then the Italian will have to be patient and wait for an inevitable injury or supsension. With the physio room becoming quieter and competition for places increasing, a fit and motivated Fabio Borini can only be good news for Sunderland but how much a part he has to play this season remains to be seen.