Sunderland’s clash with Manchester United on Boxing day marks the halfway point of the season, with only three different players having scored in the top flight thus far.
Jermain Defoe (8), Victor Anichebe (3) and Patrick Van Aanholt (3), along with a Robert Huth own goal have registered the Wearsiders 15 league goals so far this season, with zero strikes coming from midfield - the fewest of any side before Christmas, ever.
3 – Just 3 players have scored a PL goal for Sunderland in 2016-17, the fewest of any team in a single season before Xmas (ex. OG's). Trio.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 20 December 2016
David Moyes’ side have the second lowest goal scoring record in the league this season, with Hull registering just the one goal fewer. Yet again Sunderland appear to have an over reliance on Jermain Defoe, who has bagged over half of the goals for his side.
Paddy McNair and Adnan Januzaj have both bagged goals in the League Cup earlier in the campaign, but to find the last league goal scored by a Sunderland midfielder you will have to go all the way back to the final day of last season when Jack Rodwell put the Black Cats ahead against Watford. In fact, Rodwell - despite his substantial and justifiable critics - has the best goals-to-games ratio of any central midfielder currently in the Sunderland squad.
- Jack Rodwell: 4 league goals in 49 league games - one goal every 12.25 games
- Seb Larsson: 12 league goals in 159 league games - one goal every 13.25 games
- Lee Cattermole: 2 league goals in 161 league games - one goal every 80.5 games
- Paddy McNair: 0 league goals in 7 league games
- Dider Ndong: 0 league goals in 11 league games
- Steven Pienaar: 0 league goals in 11 league games
- Jan Kirchhoff: 0 league goals in 20 league games
In the wide midfield areas, the goalscoring record doesn’t look any brighter for Sunderland, with Fabio Borini having the best goals-to-game ratio.
- Fabio Borini - 12 league goals in 62 league games - one goal every 5.17 games
- Wahbi Khazri - 2 league goals in 15 league games - one goal every 7.5 games
- Duncan Watmore - 3 league goals in 35 league games - one goal every 11.67 games
- Adnan Januzaj - 0 league goals in 7 league games
- Lynden Gooch - 0 league goals in 9 league games
The lack of goalscoring prowess in the Sunderland side is concerning, and an issue that is hardly a new occurrence. In fact, a Sunderland midfielder has never notched double figures for league goals in a Premier League season, with Don Hutchinson (7 goals in 2000/01), Seb Larsson (7 goals in 2011/12), Stephane Sessegnon (7 goals in 2011/12 & 2012/13) and Adam Johnson (8 goals in 2013/14) coming the nearest.
With minimal leeway in the transfer and wage budget for David Moyes in January, it seems the only feasible solution to Sunderland’s midfield goalscoring woes is to either make the goal bigger or to implement an alternative training regime. It is evident that Sunderland's midfielders need to up their game if they are to stay up this season.
Perhaps, even, it's time to stick with playing someone more creative in a number ten role - Adnan Januzaj occupied that position with relative ease against Watford and with the likes of Wahbi Khazri and George Honeyman waiting in the wings, it's something that we should definitely consider.
In theory playing people like Victor Anichebe regularly should see others getting around him and feeding off the scraps that he leaves when holding up the ball. Plus, added to that is the fact that we are slowly seeing the return to fitness of Fabio Borini - who, whilst not being a regular or dependable goalscorer is more than capable of adding another five or six before the end of the current season if he's able to keep his place in the team.
The Black Cats are short in the midfield department, with a series of injuries and the upcoming African Cup of Nations set to leave David Moyes with very little to choose from.
The likes of Fabio Borini, Seb Larsson and even Jack Rodwell will be vital in aiding Jermain Defoe and Victor Anichebe in the coming weeks in the busy festive schedule as Sunderland aim to climb the table, especially if David Moyes is able to achieve the ten wins that he feels Sunderland need to ensure their survival.