Chris Young column: Defensive option’s key move for Sunderland boss

Fabio Borini.
Fabio Borini.
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IT BECAME boring weeks ago. But now the Fabio Borini situation has reached the stage where it has grown so tiresome, that there will almost be a muted fanfare if Sunderland do actually pull an increasingly unlikely rabbit out of the hat and sign the Italian.

The regular cries of “What is happening with Borini?” continue to reverberate around social media.

The Twitter stalking which occurred earlier this week when Borini and his fiancee travelled to London, demonstrated that the bid to re-sign last season’s joint top scorer still captivates some of Sunderland’s paying public.

For many though, life has moved on. We are now in the stage of speculation over who will be Borini’s replacement.

Gus Poyet has remained startlingly positive on Borini throughout the last month, yet that confidence is not necessarily shared.

Sunderland’s enquiry for QPR-bound Eduardo Vargas demonstrates that there is a realisation at the Stadium of Light that alternatives have to be sourced.

While we are perhaps not quite at the end of the road with Borini, the stop sign is on the horizon.

Undoubtedly, the Black Cats desperately require an addition capable of operating in that left-sided role which Borini did so well in last season.

Connor Wickham is not a natural fit there, while Emanuele Giaccherini – when fit – is yet to demonstrate that he can be an effective Premier League performer on a consistent basis.

But the “Borini role” should NOT be Sunderland’s priority in the remaining 10 days of this transfer window.

Arguably above all else, Sunderland desperately need a quality addition to their central defensive ranks, whether on loan or on a permanent basis.

Valentin Roberge demonstrated throughout pre-season that his distribution as a ball-playing centre-half – an asset which clearly plays to Poyet’s tastes – is excellent.

But when it comes to the cut and thrust of the Premier League, Roberge demonstrated last weekend that there are major question marks over his suitability for English football.

Victor Anichebe may have collapsed shamelessly for West Brom’s penalty last weekend, yet Roberge couldn’t handle the striker’s might.

Anichebe never even contemplated going anywhere near John O’Shea.He simply stuck to preying upon the weak-link in Sunderland’s back-line.

Now, Roberge was thrust into the fold as a last-minute decision due to Santiago Vergini’s absence and the Frenchman is only likely to be limited to a handful of appearances this season, at the bottom of the central defensive pecking order.

But what happens if O’Shea or Wes Brown are sidelined for any significant length of time?

At the moment, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Given the ex-Manchester United pair’s age and Brown’s injury record, it’s hardly beyond the realms of possibility either.

Vergini would presumably deputise, yet, like Roberge, he is yet to completely convince as a Premier League central defender.

The Argentine has looked far more comfortable as a right-back, albeit his opportunities at the heart of the back four last season came when he was still acclimatising to life on these shores.

At the moment, Vergini is a decent squad player, yet not one who has demonstrated he can be first-choice for an entire campaign.

It’s an area Sunderland obviously realise needs addressing.

The failed bid of more than £4million for Ashley Williams earlier this summer showed that Poyet and sporting director Lee Congerton were well aware of the need to land back-up to O’Shea and Brown.

After Sunderland’s subsequent transfer investment – including a £10m outlay on Jack Rodwell – there is not thought to be that amount of money remaining in the coffers, particularly given the need to sign Borini or an alternative.

Certainly, if Sunderland were interested in Manchester City’s Micah Richards, they would face a tall order to meet the champions’ £5million asking price, plus the 25-year-old’s £70,000 a week wages.

As it is, Poyet does not fancy the England international. He doesn’t believe Richards would be a good match for Sunderland’s possession-based philosophy and questions his salary requirements.

Sunderland may have to look towards the loan market for another centre-half; the likes of Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma, who the Black Cats enquired about earlier in the summer.

It needs to be someone half-decent though.

Prior to Brown returning to the fold from 17 months on the sidelines last season, Sunderland demonstrated what damage a colander defence causes.

Yes, the goal threat needs improving – any side outside the top seven will say the same.

But Sunderland’s revival last season was built on a resolute back-line.

Poyet needs the resources to ensure it remains equally well-drilled this time around.

IT’S EASY to be caught up in the tribal warfare over Jack Colback.

The midfielder’s move to St James’s Park this summer even sparked the club itself to react petulantly by posting pictures of Colback scoring in last season’s Tyne-Wear derby.

But setting aside the anti-Newcastle agenda, there has been a huge over-reaction to Colback’s competitive debut for the Magpies.

“Colback for England” has been the call emanating from several quarters this week.

Fair enough, the 24-year-old produced a fine display in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City; tirelessly closing down Yaya Toure and his cohorts.

But it’s nothing Sunderland supporters hadn’t seen before.

Colback invariably produced those hard-working, unsung hero displays against the big boys.

The reservations at Sunderland stemmed from his infrequent ability to control a game against the Premier League’s lesser lights.

Whether or not he can add that dimension to his game will be the acid test of how successful his move across the great divide ultimately proves to be.