Damian - Midfield!
I’m not going to wax lyrical about Jason Denayer’s ability here because most of us have quickly warmed to him and his ability is evident for all to see. Instead my argument is that the change simply isn’t necessary.
It goes without saying that Jason Denayer is a centre back. He was loaned to us as a centre back and I’m sure the Manchester City staff that keep an eye on their loanees will be happier the more game time he gets in that role, a role which, if our recent cup tie against Burnley is anything to go by, suits him perfectly.
Strictly then I cannot say that we would suffer having him in that role against Stoke this coming Saturday but what I can say with certainty is that we’ll miss him in midfield.
With N’Dong away at the AFCON with Gabon we don’t have a defensive midfielder, in fact with our current injury list we don’t actually have many first team midfielders at all. Rodwell's recent upturn in form in the middle of the park coupled with his willingness to carry the ball and push forward to support the attack will likely see him returned to that position this weekend and Moyes doesn’t have any simple options. He could bring in Larsson who, for all of his commitment to the club simply isn’t very good, or he could try to shoe-horn Donald Love in to that role, something he has toyed with before.
My argument for Denayer to sit in front of the defensive line is quite simple; we have defenders. We have more defenders than capable midfielders. Though Kone is away with Ivory Coast and we need a centre back, we have our tried and tested stalwart in John O’Shea to replace him.
Let me say it now for posterity’s sake – I am not John O’Shea’s biggest fan. I think his reaction-time is visibly decreasing, his strength is fading and his reading of the game doesn’t compensate for the comedic errors that can occur so often in a Sunderland back line. All that being said he still has a year in him and he is still a commanding figure even if that is interspersed with the occasional “Sunderland-esque” mistake.
Considering that we can field a left back, right back and two centre halves and considering also the opponent we face lack any real pace that would take those defenders out of the game I can’t see the urgency to take Denayer out of a sweeping defensive midfield role that he has performed so admirably in. In that role he can contribute both to a struggling midfield and lend a helping hand to two solid defenders.
Gav - Defence!
I was at Saturday's cup tie against Burnley, and I think that I can say comfortably that I had the privilege of watching Jason Denayer give us the best central defensive performance from a Sunderland player so far this season.
Just one week earlier Andre Gray had brutally exposed both John O'Shea and Papy Djilobodji with his movement and pace at Turf Moor, scoring a hattrick, but on this occasion Denayer was tasked with marking Gray out of the game - something which he did with consummate ease.
Not only that, but he carried the ball out well and distributed it easily, won the majority of his headers, performed some superb last-ditch defending and pulled his partner - the aforementioned Djilobodji - out of the mire on more occasions than I wish to mention due to his superior reading of the game. It was truly a class performance from a class player.
And whilst I see merit in playing Denayer in our midfield too, I saw enough from Donald Love and Jack Rodwell to at least feel somewhat confident that they'll be able to play together in the centre of the park this weekend.
Denayer's introduction in to the middle of our defence brought us a clean sheet - in the two games prior, we crumbled against Liverpool on set pieces and then shipped a boat load against Burnley in the league. It's no surprise that we were able to look far more resolute with the introduction of some pace into our leaky back-line.
For me, it would be daft to break up a defence that has just kept a clean sheet. Keep Manquillo in the side too. Leave Donald Love and Jack Rodwell in the centre, and at least attempt to stick at things that have been working in recent weeks.
Who do you agree with? Leave us your comments!