David Moyes is not expecting Jan Kirchhoff to play again this season, and will look to build a more ‘robust’ Sunderland squad this summer.
It is looking increasingly likely that Sunderland will be playing their football in the Championship next season, currently 10 points adrift of Hull City in 17th place.
That would mean a minimum of eight extra league games next season, in a notoriously exhausting division.
The Black Cats have been significantly hampered by injury this season, some of which have affected players who have never experienced long lay-offs before.
Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair have suffered long-term injuries for the first time, with Jordan Pickford also spending time out over the new year with an achilles injury.
Unquestionably, however, many of those who have spent time on the sidelines have had recurring issues.
The Black Cats have struggled to attract top targets to Wearside, especially in January, and so were forced to turn to cut-price options who have struggled to put a consistent run of first-team games together over a period of time.
Kirchhoff, snapped up from Bayern Munich for £750,000 in January 2016, came into that category last season, as well as Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar and others this term.
Moyes acknowledged that has played its part in the struggles of this season and will seek to correct it in the summer.
He said: “What I’d like to do going forward is I’d like to have a squad that is robust.
“I’d like to try and bring players to the club that can play 40 games per season, people who aren’t injury-prone if I can put it that way.
“That’s nothing against Jan Kirchhoff – he had injury problems before he came here, and he has been really unlucky.
“We will consider him over the next few weeks and see how he is.
“Overall, though, we could do with a squad that is tougher.
“You won’t see Duncan or Paddy this season, that’s for sure, and we may or may not see Kirch, but, at the moment, I would say not.”
Kirchhoff’s Sunderland career now looks set for an underwhelming end.
His final appearance in a red and white jersey may well be his hour long cameo at Hetton, turning out for the Under-23s against Manchester United.
That night, the German suffered a recurrence of the knee injury picked up in the 1-0 Premier League defeat to Chelsea in December.
He has made just eight first-team appearances this season, with Sunderland unable to replicate the defensive midfield role he played to superbly in last season’s charge to safety under Sam Allardyce.
The likes of Donald Love, John O’Shea and a raft of midfielders gave filled the role at times, but none have truly convinced.
Despite his injury woes, the 26-year-old is unlikely to be short of suitors should he leave Wearside this summer, with Galatasaray already said to be weighing up a move.