Sunderland analysis - Defence, not Fabio Borini, is the big concern against Spurs

Younes Kaboul in action for Sunderland against Aston Villa. Picture by FRANK REID

Younes Kaboul in action for Sunderland against Aston Villa. Picture by FRANK REID

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A Fabio Borini love-in will doubtless envelope the Stadium of Light weekend, whether or not the Italian enjoys a successful return to Wearside.

For all it took Sunderland 13 months to re-sign Borini, that tiresome period is being swiftly forgotten.

It is the gaping holes in Sunderland’s defence which will have worried Dick Advocaat more during the international break than incorporating Borini into the starting XI

But the £7.75million Sunderland splashed out on Borini is to augment the Black Cats’ goal threat, NOT for him to suddenly emerge as a saviour to the attack.

Sunderland have done alright going forward in their opening four games, quite contrary to the difficulties under Gus Poyet for the vast majority of last season.

Only five teams have mustered more than Sunderland’s tally of six goals.

Now, Borini is far from a wasted acquisition, with a far greater promise of goals from the ex-Liverpool man than Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham, albeit he will need a game or two to knock off the rust from being frozen out at Anfield.

But it is the gaping holes in Sunderland’s defence which will have worried Dick Advocaat more during the international break than incorporating Borini into the starting XI.

Even in their best defensive performance – the last home Premier League game against Swansea – there was a vulnerability about Sunderland at the back, which has been even more alarming in the other four games.

Younes Kaboul – facing former club Spurs after being forced to train on his own at the end of his White Hart Lane spell – showed enough at Aston Villa to suggest that fitness, rather than quality, has been his biggest problem at the start of the season.

The situation in both full-back berths has been far more concerning, with Billy Jones, Patrick van Aanholt and Adam Matthews all struggling.

DeAndre Yedlin was brought in on deadline day to boost that department, yet the American international is ineligible to face his parent club, plus there are question marks over whether he is another who is more capable going forward than defensively.

But, in fairness to the former trio, they haven’t had a lot of protection.

It’s not a natural inclination for either Jermain Defoe or Jeremain Lens to track back, yet, with Advocaat poised to use Borini in a central role, they’ll have to get used to it.

Equally, Sunderland’s central midfield trio – which potentially excludes Lee Cattermole – have to learn to lend a helping hand in preventing opposition full-backs having a free hand to bomb up the pitch.

That cliché about “defending as a team” has loomed large in Advocaat’s work on the training ground.

If Sunderland can show some defensive resilience, then they will have a sniff on Sunday against a winless Spurs side who have scored just three times in the Premier League.

Unfortunately, that’s usually a cue for Sunderland to get the wrapping paper out and present a timely gift...