Alfred N'Diaye appears to be the man that Martin O'Neill has identified to bring some functionality to the Sunderland midfield. But is an enforcer the immediate need or does the fabled 'playmaker' better fit the bill? Dan Williams and Karl Jones slog it out for your vote.
Dan Williams - Midfield Maestro!
If we had the choice between a midfield enforcer and a midfield maestro, one of those players blessed with such skill that even seeing them tie their shoelaces is a joy, then there is only one choice for me.
Let's be honest, we've got Lee Cattermole at the club, and he's the only enforcer that this team really needs. In fact he's got enough enforcer in him to see off the whole of the north, never mind just us. But anyway, I digress. When Catts is on the field, he is the one that will look after the back four, and leave us opportunities elsewhere in the midfield to create something at the other end.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think this season may be the last that we see of Stephane Sessegnon in a Sunderland shirt. He's been incredible - in phases - during his time with us, but has never been consistently brilliant, and I think that his time could be coming to an end. If Martin O'Neill is bringing in another striker, or planning to play both Fletcher and Wickham together, then the man hanging off of the attacker, currently Sess, will likely be sacrificed, meaning that he either becomes a square peg in a round hole on the wing, or moves on to pastures new, as it's unlikely that he'll be too happy on the bench for a long period of time.
So, another flair player, one that can really get our hearts racing, would be ideal. Look at this season's fantasy football league. Santi Corzola is miles ahead of Yaya Toure, and it's players like Carzola, Mata and Hazard that have been writing the headlines this season. I'm not saying that we can attract a player of that quality, but O'Neill is clearly putting some work in when it comes to scouting foreign talent, and there are some incredible playmakers out there to be had.
With Cattermole commanding a role in the team as our defensive midfielder, and Jack Colback filling in for him as 'Catts Light' during his absences, a player who can create a chance from nothing, or be able to see a pass a second before the opponent could make us into a genuinely high-class side, while Sessegnon searches for the form that has departed him. And if the Benin international does decide to embark on a new challenge, we'll certainly need someone in the squad to feed our remaining attacking options.
Karl Jones - Midfield Monolith!
For as long as I can remember, Sunderland fans have had a bee in their bonnet about a ‘creative' central midfielder. At times, those wanting such a player have even changed the parameters - ranging from a box-to-box middle-man that can chip in with a few goals to someone that, essentially, does what Craig Gardner was labelled when we signed him in August 2011. Now, whilst both achieve the same result - the team becoming less reliant on goals from the striker - just how that conclusion is reached differs quite vastly.
Sunderland's current central midfield is, at times, simply hanging on in games without the experience or positional play of Lee Cattermole. Even with the captain, Martin O'Neill has set up the side with the intention of the centre of Sunderland's midfield being a ‘base' - the foundations - with the creative elements of the side coming from out wide and in front of them, in the form of Stephane Sessegnon. When you factor in Danny Rose and Craig Gardner at full-back then there is enough potential attacking potency without needing to loosen the foundations.
Many may argue that the system needs changing, and in time it might, but recent games against Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers only reinforce O'Neill's theory, and even enhance it when you consider how shaky Sunderland has been defensively. Finding a player capable of sitting deep and providing attacking injection would be no easy task - unless Spain's player-maker has shunted out one that actually hasn't caught anyone's eye. If you look at what Beñat has done at Real Betis this season, then that is the dream; someone who can retain the ball, and the team's shape, and quickly and accurately find those in front of him in enough space to cause problems for the opposition. Until such a time comes where a) such a player is made available or b) Sunderland can attract that calibre of player, then simply reinforcing the spine of the team and protecting the defence is all that is needed.
Which side of the debate are you on? Vote in our poll and let us know in the comments section below!
Where does Sunderland's immediate midfield need lay?
Midfield Maestro (33 votes)
Midfield Monolith (49 votes)
82 total votes