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Sunderland’s injury woes have been well documented in recent months, and it’s only now that our treatment room looks to be emptying out.
Two of those who remain sidelined have been part of the more long-term injury list.
Corry Evans and Jay Matete have been out of action for months, with Evans not kicking a ball since January. Matete was more recent, but he looked set for a prominent role this season, having been a major feature of our pre-season. His injury against North Carolina has ruled him out since.
These injuries left us with just the two out-and-out centre midfielders for the start of the season, an issue that always threatened to have us looking short in that department. With Dan Neil and Pierre Ekwah both having issues of late, even a third midfield role could have lessened the load on the squad.
With the club sharing images of both Evans and Matete back in some form of training, the hope seems to be that we could have them available not too long into the new year. Even having them as squad options could do us the world of good for what is sure to be a brutal second half of the season.
I’d like to see us bring in a midfield option in January, especially considering we’ve needed more depth in midfield since the last transfer window. Of Matete and Evans I feel it’s the former who might have more of a role to play this season, which would leave us with three out-and-out centre mids plus Jobe and, to a lesser extent, Chris Rigg there.
Add another body to that midfield, and we’d have good options moving forward in this season and beyond.
Being able to rotate midfield options will, of course, help keep players looking sharper while also cutting down the risk of injury. Ekwah’s injury at QPR back in September is something he’s seemingly not got over and he’s not looked the same since returning to the side for the 2-1 defeat to Stoke in October.
Dan Neil has been impressive this season, but even he has looked rough around the edges at times – and it is at these times that a squad’s depth is required. Being without two central midfield options for half a season is starting to catch up with us, especially when we’re considering either Trai Hume or Jenson Seelt as some sort of progressive midfield option.
The 46 games of a Championship season take its toll, and being short anywhere across the pitch is far from ideal – but having only your first-choice centre mids and little chance to freshen things up off the bench has left us high and dry so far this season.
Matete and Evans would be by no means automatic starters, but I can’t help but feel we’ve missed the depth they give us. Evidence that they are back in at least some form of training is positive for all involved as we look to kick on in 2024.