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Larsson red card upheld; No bad thing for a midfield desperate for refresh - who replaces him?

The FA have rejected Sunderland's appeal against Sebastian Larsson's red card in last Sunday's game with Manchester United. It may be no bad thing for a midfield which needs a shake-up forced upon it. Surely its Khazri time, but Moyes surely won't opt for Pienaar, will he?

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

So Sebastian Larsson will miss Sunderland's next three games against West Ham, Middlesbrough and Bournemouth.

Big deal.

For a midfield which has been the spluttering engine room in Sunderland's drive to relegation in this car crash season, the absence of the Swede is no bad thing.

Larsson was dismissed in the 43rd-minute of last weekend's home defeat to Manchester United by referee Craig Pawson. The decision was a harsh one but the FA have sought to apply the letter of the law in backing their official's handling of the tackle on Ander Herrera.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The FA statement reads:

An Independent Regulatory Commission has rejected a wrongful dismissal claim from Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson.

The midfielder was dismissed for serious foul play during the Black Cats' Premier League fixture against Manchester United on 9th April 2017. Larsson's three-match suspension remains in place.

No great surprise, the only notable section of that statement being when did the game's governing body start calling club's by their nicknames in regulatory matters? But we digress...

The 31-year-old Swedish international has featured in Sunderland's midfield in every fixture bar one since his return to the side in early December. And he's been as big a part of the problem in the middle of the park as most of those he's lined up with.

Because make no mistake, Sunderland's midfield is a major reason the club will be relegated this season and Sebastian Larsson has been a major part of it.

Larsson has tended to vary between being utilised centrally or wide of centre in his appearances under David Moyes but whichever position he's been used in, his performances have nearly all been lack-lustre and have neatly summed up the problems in the middle.

A midfield too often found lacking - too weak, too lightweight and bereft of creativity and drive. A beige middle squadron without leadership, fight or inspiration. Sadly, Sebastian Larsson used to possess several of those qualities but the player who turns 32 this summer has been devoid of most in his appearances this season.

A former 'dead-ball specialist', the fact that Sunderland haven't scored a goal from a set-piece, bar one indirectly scored from a Larsson free-kick in that fluke result at Crystal Palace, tells its own story.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League
A Seb Larsson free-kick v Liverpool in January
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Not one goal from a corner or a free-kick. And for most of the games this season, Larsson has been the man taking them. A fair chunk of his corners have failed to beat the first defender. Yet David Moyes has persisted.

But now the Sunderland boss has no choice but to change things. His team will have to win each game as they now present to avoid being mathematically relegated week-by-week, starting with Saturday's home fixture against West Ham.

The absence of Larsson should pave the way for the other 'dead-ball specialist' at the club to finally get his chance this season. Step forward Wahbi Khazri. Sadly, David Moyes will probably opt for Steven Pienaar - now seemingly fit again following a calf strain.

And after the sarcastic ovations which have accompanied Khazri's introductions to the field of play of late and the jeers which have been aimed at those he has replaced, things might turn nastier yet in the stands on Saturday.

Alternatively, Lynden Gooch would at least add some drive in the middle and a fresh approach. The American hasn't made the field of play for the first team since November and would offer energy in a lethargic side. George Honeyman may be the other youngster worth throwing in.

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