JORDI GOMEZ endured one of those days at Goodison Park.
The Spaniard struggled in the tussle with his former Wigan boss Roberto Martinez; squandering possession, losing his footing and being caught in possession.
He knows if someone goes, then he stays back, and he’s very comfortable with the ball. That’s important.Dick Advocaat
With fellow midfielder Seb Larsson similarly struggling to exert any control in the middle of the park, Everton were able to enjoy more than 70 per cent of the ball.
“We just couldn’t control the midfield, aside from through Lee (Cattermole),” admitted Advocaat afterwards.
“Larsson and Jordi had some problems.”
But – and it’s a big “but” – Gomez has generally been one of Sunderland’s top performers since Advocaat took the Stadium of Light reins from Gus Poyet.
On paper, Gomez looked to be a perfect fit for Poyet’s possession-based philosophy after arriving at the Stadium of Light on a Bosman deal last summer.
Yet it is under Advocaat that Gomez has produced his best performances in a Sunderland shirt, with the head coach acknowledging the importance of having a player in midfield capable of putting his foot on the ball.
“His all-round game has been very good,” said Advocaat.
“He knows if someone goes, then he stays back, and he’s very comfortable with the ball.
“I think he played excellently against Southampton (in the 2- home win a fortnight ago).”
With Advocaat tweaking Sunderland’s 4-3-3 system to give Connor Wickham and Jermain Defoe more licence to drift inside in behind the central striker, extra responsibility has been placed on the central midfielders.
Advocaat has encouraged both full-backs to get forward as much as possible to provide the width in Sunderland’s set-up.
And that means Gomez, Larsson and Cattermole have the jobs of plugging the gaps left when Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt move upfield.
Advocaat added: “We like to have a lot of movement in the team.
“I like them to play in their own areas, but I also like them to move up the pitch.
“They need the athleticism to do that if one player goes, another takes over that position.”