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Senegal international thriving away from Sunderland - could we have done with him this season?

Papy Djilobodji was awful for Sunderland in the Premier League but whilst we’ve continually struggled this season against physical sides, he’s been playing some of the best football of his career in France. With hindsight in mind, is it fair to suggest we could have done with him this season?

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Sunderland fans can add Papy Djilobodji’s name to a growing list of players - including messrs Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini - who have achieved relative success elsewhere having largely failed to impress whilst on Wearside.

At the Stadium of Light, Djilobodji - signed from Premier League giants Chelsea for a fee believed to be at around £8 million - was part of a turgid David Moyes side who struggled to complete any of football’s fundamental’s effectively, and were pitifully relegated to the Championship after a long, depressing season of struggle.

The Senegal international looked seriously out of his depth in his short stint in the cold North East, often proving too easy to turn, with his rash tackling leading many to describe Djilobodji as a liability.

Papy in the Premier League was, more often than not, a red card waiting to happen.

AFC Bournemouth v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

However, since heading off to join up with French side Dijon on loan last summer, the former Werder Bremen player of the season has seemingly transformed his fortunes and turned his career around.

He’s regularly churned out stellar defensive displays - even forcing his way back into the Senegal setup, having been previously discounted by manager Aliou Cissé.

According to Senegalese football outlet foot221, 29-year-old Djilobodji has “seized his chance in the last two friendlies,” leaving a “good image” with his international gaffer.

In the press after Senegal’s recent fixtures against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Uzbekistan, Cissé was reportedly delighted with Sunderland’s loanee, evaluating Djilobodji as a player of “quality” who possesses “talent”, further describing him as doing “very good things” whilst in the colours of Les Lions de la Téranga.

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And though Djilobodji was undoubtedly awful whilst at Sunderland it’d be fair to say that the type of goals that we’ve conceded throughout the entirety of this season suggests that he might have been of use to Coleman, particularly as part of a back three.

The complete lack of athleticism in our current squad has been a large part of why we’ve struggled to beat even average teams, and aside from Paddy McNair and Lamine Kone you’d be hard pushed to suggest just who else we have that is adept at handling themselves in physical situations.

Given Sunderland’s defensive woes against Sheffield Wednesday - and throughout this season in general - it isn't unreasonable to suggest that Chris Coleman could have utilised Papy’s strengths in the Championship this season had he been afforded the opportunity to do so.

Sunderland’s shambolic defensive unit has lead to the Lads conceding eighteen goals from set pieces this season - the joint highest in the Championship. Standing at 6’4, Djilobodji may have provided some much needed height and physicality to side who have leaked 72 league goals during the current campaign.

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