Before we get into this, I'm going to ask you all a question. When you think of Santiago Vergini, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Don't worry, I know exactly what you're thinking. And, to be honest, I think that Vergini's time as a Sunderland player might have been harshly judged due to THAT incident. He wasn't all that bad, really, perhaps just a bit misunderstood.
In the eyes of the man that brought him to the club, Gustavo Poyet, Vergini is the perfect central defender. He isn't going to throw himself in the way of shots or bat away the ball in the air for ninety minutes but he'll try and carry it forward and play a pass, and that style of play was something that Poyet was keen to impart upon the Sunderland team, despite perhaps not really having the quality of player needed to execute it successfully.
Sadly for Santiago Vergini, Poyet didn't last very long at Sunderland and the day that everything was over for the Uruguayan may as well have been the day that Santi packed his bags too. Sunderland were leaking far too many goals, and whoever replaced Gus needed to solidify a back line that was struggling. Vergini was a luxury that we could not afford.
We accommodated him for large periods. You couldn't really trust him to play down the middle but at right back he was fairly decent - not only was he able to showcase his ability on the ball, but he was effective in closing down space out wide and even joining in with the attacks. I remember a game at home against Chelsea where he tore them apart in the opening forty-five minutes and was only denied a goal from a lovely strike by the crossbar. His 'ability' wasn't particularly in question at any point, not by me anyhow.
Yet, to be fair to Santi, becoming a successful Premier League defender usually depends upon three things:
1: Are you good in the air?
2: Are you strong and mobile?
3: Do you attempt to minimise any mistakes you might make by taking the easy option when defending?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you aren't going to last very long. That goes from the very best clubs all the way down to the relegation fodder - players like David Luiz, Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi have came into England for massive sums of money yet have been less successful here than the likes of Wes Morgan, Ryan Shawcross and Phil Jagielka, for example. You need to be able to defend first and foremost.
And really, we got a true insight into Allardyce's defensive ethos when we pursued the hell out of Lamine Kone in January. He never gave up on signing the Ivorian from Lorient, despite the deal collapsing on a number of occasions, and in turn we were treated to a number of colossal performances from him in the run in towards the end of the season. Big Sam likes big, athletic, no-nonsense defenders and always has done.
So, as much as I have a soft spot for Santiago Vergini, I completely see why he's been allowed to leave the club without the manager actually taking a look at him in person.
You just know that if Big Sam came across Santi on Tinder, he'd definitely swipe left.