Jan Kirchhoff limped out of Saturday’s friendly against Montpellier after just twenty-five minutes and is a major doubt for the start of the new season with a suspected pulled hamstring. Typical.
However, this is not exactly new ground for the German, who in recent years has had an injury record that even Jack Rodwell would be envious of. A staggering 890 days of Kirchhoff’s short career have been missed due to injury, with a series of Achilles and muscle injuries plaguing him.
The 25-year-old has never really been able to sustain a regular run during his career, partly due to restricted opportunities but mainly due to his poor injury record. However, until last week, Kirchhoff’s worries appeared to be behind him. Since arriving on Wearside, apart from a hamstring tweak against Manchester United in February, Kirchhoff barely missed a game. Yes, he often failed to make it through ninety minutes but this was mainly due to match fitness, with most hoping that simply a run of games in the first-team had turned the German’s fortunes around.
However, since returning to pre-season training on Wearside Kirchhoff has been somewhat underwhelming. With just 105 pre-season minutes under his belt before injury, Kirchhoff’s match fitness is still very poor and with the new season just two weeks away, you have to wonder how this will effect the German for the upcoming campaign.
Sunderland fans are no strangers to watching injury prone players - just look at Jack Rodwell. A lack of confidence, fitness and training has seriously effected the ability of a player who was once one of England’s brightest prospects. I for one hope that Jan Kirchhoff does not follow this route. 131 appearances during a nine-year career is a worrying figure for the German, averaging just 15 appearances per season. Given the influence that Kirchhoff had on the team last season, you would hope that this average will not be repeated during the 2016/17 season.
The ongoing injury issues that Kirchhoff has will not disappear overnight. The Black Cats must have a plan in place in order to deal with the situation when the inevitable happens again this season. Sunderland’s midfield is currently very thin, with new signings essential, and the sooner the better. The Black Cats’ potential new signings and Jan Kirchhoff will need to get into training at the Academy of Light as they fall behind the rest of the squad with every passing day.
There is no doubting Kirchhoff’s importance to this Sunderland side, however, with such a poor injury record, it would be foolish for the Black Cats to rely so heavily on the German this season.