Adam Johnson could be set for an extended run as the creative element in Sunderland’s central midfield.
With Jack Rodwell and Seb Larsson missing through injury, winger Johnson was deployed alongside Yann M’Vila and Lee Cattermole in the middle of the park for Sunderland’s win over Aston Villa on Saturday.
I like him there because he gets more possession there than he does out wideSam Allardyce
In the second half, particularly after Carles Gil’s stunning volley had levelled proceedings for Villa, Johnson began to pull the strings for Sunderland, as he kept his composure in what was unquestionably a make-or-break game for the Black Cats.
And Allardyce has indicated that Johnson could stay in that role, with the 28-year-old able to see more of the ball in a central position.
“I like him there because he gets more possession there than he does out wide and his talents on the ball are very important to us,” said Allardyce.
“When he plays in a wide position, he maybe gets the ball an average of 24 to 30 times, whereas in the hole, it’s maybe 45, 50, 55.
“That’s very important to us because he can play the final ball that we’re looking for, for any of the front three.”
Allardyce similarly rebranded Johnson’s ex-Middlesbrough team-mate Stewart Downing at former club West Ham last season after moving the England winger into a central role, and the Sunderland boss agrees there’s a comparison to be made.
“He’s not quite as quick as he used to be, but he can be very effective because he’s got a good football brain,” added Allardyce.
“He finds good spaces in that area, he can handle the ball when he’s marked.
“There’s not many of our players who can receive the ball when they’re marked, but he can deal with it and he can deal with the man who’s marking him. He can roll and turn him, and come out with the ball and get us going in an attacking mode.”