Seb Larsson's future goes under the microscope in this week's Make Your Case.
It's time for us all to get a little more argumentative as we once again make our cases over a hot topic related to Sunderland, with you the reader deciding who put forward the best argument and voting for a winner.
This week we turn to Seb Larsson. With the club now quite flush with options on who to play, it seems as though the sexy Swede could be the odd man out. Not through any fault of his own as he's still a very good player, but where does he fit in to the new system employed by Martin O'Neill, if indeed everyone was fit?
Join us as we put forward three options on where he should be...
Simon Walsh: Seb Larsson Should Be BENCHED
This is a very difficult one to write because I really do like Seb as a player. I think he does bring a lot to the team, but given where he can play in the team there just doesn't seem to be any room left for him.
He's currently employed in the middle, but once Danny Rose get's accustomed to the left-back position, Jack Colback will surely be moved into the middle to partner Lee Cattermole, as was the case with great success last season. Colback is much more of an accomplished central midfielder than Larsson and him and Cattermole are our future at the position.
On the wing, it's hard to see how he will get a game ahead of Adam Johnson on the right. You simply don't spend more than £10m on a player, only to see him sat on the bench while someone who's quite good at freekicks gets the start.
And he is very good at set pieces, and he works hard but unfortunately for the Swede there are better options in all the positions he plays. We'd obviously lose the set piece ability, but we'd simply have to hope someone else can step up. We've got two 'proper' wingers in Johnson and McClean, and between them they should be able to put a freekick into a dangerous area you'd think. As far as striking the ball at goal, that's a toughie but we'd be hoping someone steps up Johnson could have a crack, while McClean netted a freekick last season very well.
For me it's a tough one, but Larsson's role now is ultimately that of a bench warmer.
Karl Jones: Larsson Should Be In CENTRAL MIDFIELD
Larsson was arguably our most productive player last season - in terms of goals and work rate. The myth floating around Larsson currently is that he seems exhausted after 60 minutes, and whilst there occasions where his work rate leaves him gasping (a charge also levelled at Steed Malbranque during his time at Sunderland), the moments fans pick up on Larsson's supposed fitness issues are opportunistic. Many cite the end of the Manchester City game where he - after swimming against the tide to thwart a City midfield onslaught - collapsed in a heap in the centre circle after starting the counter attack that saw Ji Dong-Won snatch a most unlikely three points.
Or, the run of games post FA Cup-exit where he, more than most many had claimed, had taken his foot off the gas now that Sunderland was safe for relegation. Only until it was revealed that he had been postponing a double hernia operation, then had it, and performed admirably in the European Championships for Sweden. And now is back into the thick of the Premier League. Basically, his energy levels are from the issue. However, just where to play him - considering his production - is.
He has proven adept at playing a central role during his time at Sunderland; the FA Cup win against Arsenal saw Larsson tucked just inside the right-flank outlet of Fraizer Campbell's pace, and his first of two goals at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City indicates that his qualities would not be lost if deployed more central. Ideally, it would be a central trio where Larsson would reside, but given the attacking qualities of Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean, the team looks far better suited to 4-2-3-1. Yet, in that holding ‘2', Larsson led the way with five interceptions against Swansea City and his passing was at a respectable 80%. It was only when deprived of Lee Cattermole that Sunderland's midfield began to lose the proverbial arm wrestle.
It is fair to say that Sunderland, at present, is well-stocked in that area even before considering Larsson. Aside from Jack Colback, who has been featuring at left-back but should return to midfield now that Danny Rose has joined on a season-long loan, there is no legitimate partner for Cattermole. Larsson's skill set can be utilised in a more central position - especially when you consider he lacks top-end pace that would be more desirable for break-out opportunities, which Johnson, the heir apparent right-sided outlet, possesses.
Personally, I think it is a testament to how far the club has come that we are not only discussing the merit of including a proven Premier League and international footballer in the Sunderland side, but that Larsson not being selected could be a very real possibility as the season progresses. At this point in time however, he remains an extremely useful player; one that can complement those in front of him from the heart of midfield.
David Boyle: Larsson Should Be On The WING
James McClean aside, Sebastian Larsson is easily the best remaining player in Sunderland's squad from the Steve Bruce era. Among a lot of midfield mediocrity Larsson's creativity, both from open play and of course deadball situations instantly made him one of the first names on the teamsheet and in turn one of the most integral parts of the way Sunderland were set up to play.
Of course the summer arrival of overnight fan favourite Adam Johnson has given Martin O'Neill one of those "welcome selection headaches" for which even Superdrug have no remedy. Before Larsson's form was hit by a hernia injury, the Swede was in fantastic form last year, contributing with numerous significant moments from his spot wide on the right - stunning freekicks, dangerous crosses and that stunning volley on his debut at Anfield.
It is understandable why at present O'Neill is keen to shoehorn his talented Swedish international into his starting eleven at all costs, which has recently seen Seb take up a position in the centre of the park. However it will be interesting to see how the team will shape up once new loan recruit Danny Rose is up and running, ready to take over the left back position from the deputising Jack Colback who for my money has proved himself to be a superb central midfielder with the best yet to come. David Vaughan will also be eager to stake his own claim for a spot in the centre of the park, as will the improving David Meyler... Decisions, decisions.
The decision upon who gets the nod to play alongside Lee Cattermole will now, rather obviously, come down to who can best compliment the skipper in that holding role behind our attacking forward line and I am not sure whether or not Larsson is as suited to that role as Colback. Whilst this will undoubtedly be tough on Larsson who has not yet let himself or the side down whilst playing through the middle, I simply feel that Colback has previously shown how he is capable of making that spot his own for many years to come.
Whilst Johnson is clearly the club's favoured option for the right wing, in Larsson we have a fantastic alternative option and someone who can offer the side something different to the direct threat which AJ has in his locker.
Far from labelling Larsson's days with the club as numbered I believe the Swede still has an important role to play with the club on the right wing but there is a real possibility he may have to settle for a spot on the bench this season. Of course, given the flexible nature of Sunderland's attacking options, there will be opportunities for the winger as the season progresses and suspensions and injuries take their toll. If anything we should be delighted that the club now finds themselves with such a "dilemma" as to where Sebastian fits in but for me he is still best deployed wide on the right as opposed to the centre of the park.
Where do you think Seb Larsson fits in to the team, and did any of the arguments sway you one way or another? Only you can decide the outcome by voting in the poll below...
Where does Seb Larsson fit into the team, if at all?
Larsson should be benched (49 votes)
Larsson should be on the wing (10 votes)
Larsson should be in the centre of midfield (51 votes)
110 total votes