Papy Djilobodji is stepping up to the mark for Sunderland as the relegation battlers attempt to transform their season.
The central defender produced his best display in a Black Cats shirt since his summer move from Chelsea in last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Bournemouth.
Boss David Moyes feels the Djilobodji is getting “better” and that seemed the case at Dean Court where he was the pick of the pairing at the heart of the defence.
While partner Lamine Kone was again out of sorts, his fellow 27-year-old looked commanding and confident.
It’s all a far cry from some uncertain moments in his early days on Wearside, making several mistakes which have come under the microscope.
“Papy in lots of ways has played well, we think he’s probably been a bit under-rated,” said the manager.
“A lot of blame has been put his way but I don’t think that should have been the case.”
Djilobodji made just the solitary appearance for Chelsea, who signed him for only £2.2million from Nantes, coming on as a late substitute in a Capital One Cup win at Walsall in September 2015.
The defender, capped 13 times by Senegal, was moved out by boss Guus Hiddink to Germany where he spent the second half of the season at Werder Bremen, playing 14 times and scoring twice, helping the side to Bundesliga safety.
With Sunderland having signed him for £8million on a four-year contract, much was expected from the African though he found the Premier League a difficult learning ground.
But Moyes, who is desperate to establish a settled and strong back four after constant changes due to injuries, has been encouraged by the development of Djilobodji.
“Papy has tried to do all the right things,” said the Scot.
“He’s got a long way to go but he’s got better and he’s not making as many mistakes as some people think he has.”
John O’Shea is back training after a hamstring injury while Jason Denayer played the full 90 minutes against Notts County in the Checkatrade Trophy win.
Moyes will have to decide whether to keep faith with the Djilobodji-Kone combo for the crunch game with Hull City a week today.