It seems like Sunderland have been searching for a balance in central midfield for almost a century.
The eternal hunt for both a combative and creative presence at the heart of Sunderland's team has left most fans tearing their hair out for some time. The former tends to have been less of a problem, but integrating a creative force ahead of the defensive shield has been something that Sunderland haven't been able to resolve on a long term basis for many, many years.
Lee Cattermole has been Sunderland's driving force for many years, and his confrontational style has endeared him to the majority of Sunderland fans. Most of his greatest performances in recent seasons have come as a deep lying midfielder, a position he excelled in under the management of Gus Poyet.
Jan Kirchhoff’s recent seamless transition into that particular position has presented Cattermole with a problem, and he looked lost against both Manchester City and Liverpool when asked to perform in a more advanced role.
Playing further forward negates the majority of Cattermole’s strengths and has a detrimental impact on his distribution. He doesn’t have that extra time on the ball to get his head up, and he’s looked both rushed and careless in possession as a result. With Kirchhoff and M'Vila taking up the more defensive positions, you have to ask whether or not there is a place for Cattermole in that midfield three, and whether or not a more creative option should be explored instead.
Big Sam certainly has more creative midfielders available that could take up that position, with new boy Wahbi Khazri looking a promising addition, as well as players like Adam Johnson and Jeremain Lens both capable of playing centrally.
The position we currently find ourselves in stresses the need for making the most of our attacking options – draws aren’t much help right now. We need to start winning games.
Personally, I would like to see Khazri given a central role this weekend, ahead of Kirchhoff and M’Vila.
Getting him on the ball as much as possible in a position behind Jermaine Defoe would be the best way to utilise the players that we have - this would also give Lee Cattermole the extra incentive to prove his doubters wrong, much like he has done many times already throughout his Sunderland career.
Striking the right balance in the middle of the park could give our side the extra boost we need in coupling defensive solidity with the appropriate service to Defoe. Perhaps Saturday is the right time to give Cattermole a rest, and see if Khazri can provide that creative spark we have been craving for through the middle of the pitch.