Reigning Player of the Year Seb Larsson’s miserable campaign has already prompted speculation over a summer exit from the Stadium of Light.
A knee injury sidelined Larsson for three months during the winter, yet the Swedish international has not been considered a starter by either Dick Advocaat or Sam Allardyce, with only one substitute outing since he returned to full fitness in February.
Larsson’s agent admitted last weekend that the 30-year-old is almost certain to leave Sunderland if they are relegated to the Championship, when he will only have 12 months remaining on his Black Cats contract.
There has to be a strong possibility that Larsson’s five-year stint at the club will reach a conclusion, regardless of which division Sunderland are in.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce was asked about whether Larsson was in his thoughts for a recall to the starting XI, but the implication was that the ex-Arsenal man is likely to remain on the fringes.
“Seb’s been out injured for such a long period of time and the team has been performing so well,” said Allardyce.
“I’ve changed (Jack) Rodwell and (Lee) Cattermole around, because Catts came in and really did as well as he has since I’ve been here.
“He had the ultimate kick up the backside where he saw that his position wasn’t quite as safe as he thought it was.
“That’s always a good motivator for the player when he gets left out and he’s responded well to that.
“For me, it’s about whoever we pick being as good as we know they can be on the day.
“And if they can’t, then they can’t blame anybody else!”