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'Love Is All You Need' - Donny MUST start in Midfield against Stoke City!

Not on the bench, not at right back - IN THE CENTRE OF MIDFIELD!

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

Donald Love played very well in the centre of the park against Burnley on Saturday and he gave more than a good account of himself whilst competing against - along side the much-improved Jack Rodwell - the experience of Joey Barton and Steven Defour.

David Moyes is without a number of his first choice midfielders and now has to try and compliment the players that he does have with ones that can be efficient and effective.

Love is no stranger to playing in the centre of the park - he often played there whilst at Manchester United in their U23s side and, likewise, he has played there on a number of occasions for our youngsters too.


Ndong-Like Energy Needed

You see, whilst Didier Ndong has had his detractors you cannot deny that his energy and work-rate has become essential to us as a unit. Now that he's away with his country on international duty, David Moyes has to look within his ranks to find someone capable of filling that void.

The natural replacement would be Jason Denayer, of course, but the Belgian's showing this weekend was arguably the best central defence performance from a Sunderland player this season - he was smart, composed, dealt fantastically with Andre Gray and some of his last-ditch defending was top-drawer.

When you consider just how badly we defended against Liverpool and Burnley in the league with O'Shea and Djilobodji paired together, and that we kept a clean sheet in Saturday's cup tie, we may need Denayer's mobility in that role on Saturday against Stoke. That means that there is a slot in the midfield that needs to be taken by someone with the ability to get around the pitch, with peak fitness levels.

Donald Love works incredibly hard and he's capable of covering a lot of space, which is what we need - particularly in home games when David Moyes might give his attackers more freedom to get forward and score goals.

Larsson Looks Spent

Much of the focus post-match was on just how poorly Fabio Borini played against Burnley at the weekend, but his colleague Sebastian Larsson was equally as bad and I'm not quite sure what he offers the team at present, beyond giving us cover at left back whenever Patrick Van Aanholt gets forward.

Sebastian was effective when he returned from injury to cause an impact against Leicester but since then his performances have worsened and I'm beginning to question just why he's retaining his place in the side.

Sunderland v Burnley - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

If we are winning the game and need someone to come on and provide some organisation and cover in midfield on Saturday then Larsson would probably be best utilised in that role.

In the event that Victor Anichebe and Billy Jones is passed fit, he shouldn't start the game - meaning that David Moyes might even have a little wiggle-room when it comes to changing around his starting eleven.

Underrated Ball Retention

Whilst Donald Love can provide us with undoubted work-rate and determination in the centre of the park, he's also probably a far better passer and retainer of the ball than people will give him credit for.

Having someone in the middle that can retain the ball and slow us down when under pressure is vital, particularly as we often struggle to cling on to possession during games when it is most needed.

I'm not saying that Donald Love is Xavi, not by any stretch, but I have been suitably impressed with how he handles the ball since he returned to the first team as a substitute against Chelsea.


What would you do - would you opt for Donald Love in the centre of midfield this weekend?