Seb Larsson hails impact of fellow new signing Ji Dong-won at Sunderland

Sunderland's Ji Dong-Won and Monchengladbach's Tony Jantschke.
Sunderland's Ji Dong-Won and Monchengladbach's Tony Jantschke.
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SEB Larsson believes fellow new boy Ji Dong-won is making his point on the pitch – even if he struggles to do so away from football.

Ji has been one of the big success stories of Sunderland’s pre-season tour of Germany, with the Korean striker showing plenty of encouragement that he will adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League.

The 20-year-old has faced a major language barrier since arriving from his homeland, with Sunderland’s players having to integrate him as best they can.

But a lack of conversation has not prevented the 6ft 2in hitman having an impact during Sunderland’s three games in Germany after the ex-Chunnam Dragons striker was the pick of the bunch during Saturday’s stalemate with Borussia Monchengladbach.

Larsson, pictured below, told the Echo: “Ji has looked impressive. He gets involved, which most of the time is the problem for foreigners when they come to England – the physical side of it.

“In training and in the games, he looks a good player.

“Of course it’s difficult for him that he doesn’t speak any English, but there’s a good bunch of lads here.

“We might not have the longest conversations in the world with him, but he’s in and around it all the time.

“He’ll learn, especially on the pitch, where he seems to be picking things up very quickly.

“He looks very clever with the runs he makes in behind and that wasn’t easy for him on Saturday because our approach play was a bit too slow.”

Larsson, who made his second start for the Black Cats against Monchengladbach, admits Sunderland still have a long road ahead before they are ready to tackle Liverpool in the Premier League opener.

Larsson believes Sunderland progressed significantly during their time in Germany despite failing to win any of their three encounters on the continent.

But the Swedish midfielder knows Steve Bruce’s men are a long way short of the required fitness levels needed to compete in the Premier League.

“Liverpool’s obviously what we’re aiming for and that’s when we want to be at our peak,” said the 26-year-old.

“But there’s still a few weeks to go and at this stage of pre-season, we’re still trying to get to the right fitness levels. That was the case again on Saturday, but at least these games have helped us a lot.

“You can see with the way we play, we’re still a bit too slow when we’ve got the ball and that’s what we need to improve.

“I think organisation-wise, we’re getting better. We were more compact on Saturday and we didn’t give silly goals away.

“When you start to get your focus back, you don’t switch off as easily. That’s what we’re progressing towards and Saturday was a step in the right direction.

“But there’s still a long way to go to the season for us to do things a little bit quicker and a little bit sharper.”