As emphasised strongly in this SAFC Blog, we need at least one defensive midfielder at Sunderland, to help kill off those games, especially away from home, when we are leading or about to gain a point, and we just need to bore the pants off the opposition. In this context the sale of Lorik Cana was a real loss, even though last season's tactics way from home did not bring out the best in him.
Lee Cattermole fits the bill, but he is young and relatively inexperienced with a so far less than impressive fitness record. As I pointed out on May 5, 2010: The current Sunderland team have a great goalie and back four when they are all fit. The question is now, as mentioned previously, do Sunderland have a true defensive midfielder? I guess the closest we have is Lorik Cana. Jordan Henderson has great energy, but his strength is as a box-to-box player. Cattermole could certainly do the job; when playing away from home we need someone who can just sit in front of the back four to help protect them, and after winning the ball, to then set up counterattacks. Maybe there is a slot for Teemu Tainio now he is back from his loan at Birmingham.
If I was Steve Bruce, I would make the signing of that sort of player a priority – he could even make a cheeky bid for Owen Hargreaves…
So the press reports of a possible move for Carrick are welcome. Cana is a loss for his combative style, tackling and his will-to-win, but all the bookings and sendings-off will not be missed. He was not really a visionary passer of the ball, either.
The Sunderland Echo reports Steve Bruce as saying: Obviously Lorik leaving was a surprise, but I think we're pretty well catered for in that department with Lee Cattermole, Cristian Riveros, Jordan Henderson and of course the young lads like Jack Colback and David Meyler who will want to push through. In an ideal world we would have preferred Lorik to stay, but his departure hasn't thrown us into a panic and we don't feel under any pressure to go straight out looking for someone else.
I must disagree, Steve. OK, we are not in a panic, but with respect, I feel we have an urgent need for a player who can protect the back four, and set up attacks with accurate passing. I am not suggesting totally sterile away performances in the style of Stoke City in the early 1980s, that brought the famous quote from Alan Durban following a particularly tedious 0-0 draw at Arsenal: If you want entertainment, go to a circus! But we do have to be able to kill off games, especially away from home, and that does not happen if the whole midfield goes charging forward with youthful exuberance.
Either Sunderland must sign a top-class replacement soon or I believe we will suffer another season of disappointing away performances. That is an aspect of last season that all Sunderland fans want to see erased in the coming Premiership campaign.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen