Cats Eye View: Sunderland’s Papy Djilobodji comes through rough start to show he can defend

Papy Djilobodji in the thick of the action for Sunderland at Stoke. Picture by FRANK REID

Papy Djilobodji in the thick of the action for Sunderland at Stoke. Picture by FRANK REID

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Sunderland had few crumbs of comfort to take from Saturday’s miserable afternoon at Stoke.

It wasn’t that bad, nor was it that good, but if there was one morsel the Black Cats could take, it was the best display to date from Papy Djilobodji.

While his return was not a triumphant one it was one for Moyes to build on

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The central defender has had a testing and, at times rough, introduction to Premier League football and Sunderland.

It’s not been easy for any defender as David Moyes, largely because of injury, has sent out SIX different back-four units in the eight top-flight fixtures.

Such a stat is evidence of how tricky it must be to establish any continuity and therefore some solidity.

There was every chance Moyes would have sent out a back three at Stoke had Lamine Kone not succumbed to a hamstring injury picked up on international duty last week.

Djilobodji was recalled to the starting XI, having been dropped to the bench for the 1-1 draw with West Brom in the previous game.

While his return was not a triumphant one, it was one for Moyes to build on. The 27-year-old made a good start, playing one of Sunderland’s most incisive passes of the afternoon to find Jermain Defoe early on, although the leading scorer was unable to take advantage.

However, that will have given him confidence for his primary job – defending.

Aside from going to ground with one challenge on Wilfried Bony just before the half-hour, he did the basics very well.

Sunderland clearly decided they needed to be quick and aggressive into the tackle with Bony and both Djilobodji and John O’Shea did just that and, bar a couple of runs, they quelled his threat very effectively.

If only Sunderland had been as strong and diligent on Joe Allen and The Match may instead have been discussing the merits of a point at Stoke instead of dissecting a 2-0 defeat.

Papy produced a goal-saving second-half block on Allen when he was chasing a perfect hat-trick of header, left foot and right foot.

The £8million summer signing from Chelsea then produced some good work on Xherdan Shaqiri to complete a fine performance,

It now needs to be the start of a sequence of good performances, not just from Djilobodji but the entire defensive unit.

With Patrick van Aanholt coming off injured, it looks as though it may need to change again for Saturday’s trip To West Ham.

Billy Jones came on at right-back and immediately made a good block and was involved in one of the most dangerous away moves in the second half.

Javier Manquillo switched to left-back for the second time this season and it’s likely he’ll start there at the London Stadium.

In the middle, O’Shea made a step forward from his return against the Baggies and his partnership with Djilobodji showed promise and will need to do so again and again if Sunderland are to escape the mess they have put themselves in.