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Mooted January move for central midfielder could revolutionise Grayson’s Sunderland

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Sunderland’s central midfield continues to let the side down. With rumours of interest in Brentford’s Ryan Woods continuing, could a January move herald a long overdue revolution in the middle of the park?

Brentford v Southampton - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Sunderland will revisit an interest in Brentford midfielder Ryan Woods in the January window, according to reports in the Sunday People.

And following Saturday’s defeat to Cardiff City, in which the Black Cats central midfield proved itself not fit for purpose, fans on Wearside will surely welcome a move for the space-making, tenacious Bees supply route.

Sunderland were linked with Woods early in the summer window but with a fee required of £3m-plus to land him, the Black Cats budget simply wouldn’t stretch to beginning negotiations never mind offering a deal to the club who signed him for a reported million in 2015.

A defensive midfielder, Woods possesses a decent passing range and persistence in the centre of Brentford’s lineup.

Brentford v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship
Woods was excellent for Brentford last season
Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The Staffordshire-born player, who has also featured at right-back and out wide earlier in his career, has played six games this season as the Bees have endured a similar start to Sunderland.

With one win from their opening seven - coming against bottom side Bolton on Saturday - Brentford are a point and two places ahead of the Black Cats in the Championship table, with the two sides set to face each other next month at Griffin Park.

Woods has earned decent enough reviews during an otherwise disappointing start to the campaign for Dean Smith’s men, with particular praise for his ability to pick out a teammate. The 5ft 8in midfielder has an 84% passing accuracy figure from his games so far this term.

And that compares favourably to Sunderland’s present defensive midfield pairing of Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong. Catts has a 72% successful passing number whilst his Gabonese sidekick rates at 78%.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Didier Ndong
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

And it’s that lack of impetus from the middle which is marring Simon Grayson’s side at present. With Sunderland dropping down a level this summer, most had expected Cattermole and Ndong to boss Championship midfield battles this season - but it simply hasn’t happened.

Of equal concern is the pair’s tendency to surrender possession in the middle of the park and failure to effectively channel Sunderland in switching play from defence to attack.

Cattermole in particular was poor against Cardiff and his declining form since a man-of-the-match performance in the first game of the season against Derby at the Stadium of Light is of growing concern.

Catts successfully completed just two-thirds of his passes against Neil Warnock’s side on Saturday, and for parts of the game he appeared to be somewhat out of position - admittedly no doubt confused by Sunderland’s mess of a formation.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Lee Cattermole is increasingly out of sorts
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Ndong fared a little better in his 79 minutes but showed signs of fatigue after being called upon to play ninety in each of Sunderland’s previous 12 league and Carabao Cup games this term.

Certainly Grayson’s two first choice defensive midfielders continue to pose the suggestion that they can’t play together, yet the other options currently available offer little optimism for better.

Darron Gibson ought to be making starting elevens in this division but the Republic of Ireland international continues to be overlooked and has only featured for 18 minutes in the league so far this season.

Jack Rodwell has largely been nowhere near the first team since the campaign began as yet another season of injuries and non-selection plays out.

Jonny Williams may offer some fresh impetus positioned further ahead of the holding pair once fit but there endeth the options as the central midfield that played such a large part in Sunderland’s relegation from the Premier League continues to hamper the club in the Championship.

Woods would be an excellent addition, but will Sunderland have anything to spend in January and will Simon Grayson even get the chance to land him if results continue to be so poor?