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Right-Wing Conundrum - Who Takes Watmore's Starting Berth Long-Term?

Following devastating news of the England U21 international’s season ending injury, here’s a look at four Black Cats who could potentially replace him.

Sunderland v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Adnan Januzaj

The 21 year old Belgium international represented Moyes’ highest profile summer signing, but has split opinion so far on Wearside.

The Scot is unlikely to have given up on such a precious talent, who seemingly had the footballing world at his feet when he burst through at Manchester United at just 18.

Januzaj has more red cards than assists or goals in the Premier League this term. Though he was a regular in the team early on in the season, the Belgian has struggled to reclaim his place in the side since picking up an ankle injury in early December.

Containing quick feet, raw pace, a deft first touch, the more mercurial forward would offer a different threat to Watmore, who relies more heavily on pace and persistence than god-given footballing ability.

Apprehension around using the loanee as a direct replacement instead of Watmore mainly stems from the difference the forwards offer in defensive output. In recent outings Sunderland’s wingers have needed to contribute at both ends of the pitch, with Anichebe and Watmore playing particularly defensive roles at Anfield.

Januzaj has yet to show the same attitude to defend as the Englishman and may lack steel required for the hard working back and forth role.

Wahbi Khazri

Wahbi Khazri is another mercurial attacker unable to shift Watmore from the starting line-up.

Khazri has been largely marginalised since the arrival of David Moyes, who publicly criticised the Tunisian’s fitness earlier in the season and has given the winger just four Premier League starts.

One of three crucial mid-season transfers last year under Sam Allardyce, alongside Jan Kirchoff and Lamina Kone, Khazri’s set piece threat and ability to shoot from range offered Sunderland a new attacking weapon. Without adding the African winger it is debatable as to whether or not Allardyce would have had enough goals and creativity to rescue Sunderland from relegation.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Khazri’s ability to deliver flat pacey crosses could also potentially benefit Sunderland’s new superstar Victor Anichebe, who enjoys an aerial and physical advantage against virtually every full back he competes with.

Much like Januzaj, most the question marks around the 25-year old relate to mentality. Given the new improved determined and resilient culture Sunderland have developed in the past month, it is still be determined whether Khazri can display the graft that Watmore and Anichebe have shown in recent weeks. Despite his offensive influence last year, at times the former Bordeaux man was guilty of over playing and giving away cheap possession costly areas.

Mainly used on the left for Sunderland, this would also be a switch for the £9 million man but given his skill and ability to cross from deep areas, one would imagine he could still contribute on the right at this level.

Fabio Borini

Edging closer to contention after suffering a torn ligament in September, Borini resembles the most similar option to Sunderland’s road runner.

A converted striker who gets by on drive and willpower more often than skill and guile. The Italian’s attitude and knack for a big goal endear him greatly to the Sunderland faithful. In theory, bringing in the player most similar to Watmore long term would lower Sunderland’s chances of suffering chemistry or organisational problems without him.

Over five years on from his top flight breakthrough at AS Roma it remains hard to establish what Borini’s true level is. Still a fan favourite, the ex-Liverpool man was lacklustre at best last year and arguably the least impressive regular starter during the club’s revival under Allardyce.

At 25, Borini often resembles a player without a true position in modern football. Too lightweight to be a central striker, while lacking the speed or skill to be a true top level forward. Borini would likely have been more successful in the previous Premier League era where 4-4-2 was more common and with his decent finishing instincts, he could well have been a highly competent second striker.

Main memories of Borini last year involved energetic but ineffective displays pivotal fixtures. His decision making being a constant source of frustration throughout potentially pivotal fixtures against Leicester City and Newcastle United.

Another question that may soon be raised regarding Borini is what he offers to a team that already possesses an excellent penalty taker in Jermain Defoe.

Sebastian Larsson

Another player who is somewhat of a positional hybrid, Larsson could be chosen to slot in on Sunderland’s right hand side. The Swede hasn’t consistently played out wide for Sunderland since Steve Bruce was manager but may offer the most tactically disciplined option available to Moyes.

Like Borini, Larsson offers excellent work rate and an ability to limit the influence of the opposition’s left back. If Borini suffers a set back and Moyes favours a more conservative option, the 31 year old could return to the starting eleven.

Darlington FC v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

A great crosser of the ball, who remains one of the best dead ball strikers in the division. Larsson offers more than just industry and as one of Sunderland’s longest serving players understands the effort and intensity required for a relegation battle.

The downside to shifting Larsson out wide is he lacks the pace and skill of most modern forwards. His inability to beat a player one on one is the original reason, Larsson was shifted inside and as he gets older this is only going to become an even greater issue.

Ultimately Moyes might be better suited deploying Larsson down the middle. His best Sunderland performances have come in central midfield and this remains a position of concern for Sunderland. With a plethora of players failing to convince in the Black Cats’ engine room this year.

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