Sunderland relaxed about Lewis Grabban's future: Why and just how big a miss would he be?
Sunderland created few openings at Bramall Lane, but there was one moment when Lewis Grabban's absence was keenly felt.
James Vaughan rose to meet a Robbin Ruiter goal kick and flicked it on well. George Honeyman was just caught on his heels and couldn’t quite get to the ball. It was a passage of play that made you appreciate the quality of Grabban’s movement and anticipation, his thirteen goals one of the few positives in a galling first half of the season.
Yet as Sunderland prepare for his possible departure, there is a surpising lack of panic.
Bournemouth have a short window in January in which to recall the 29-year-old ahead of a possible sale to a Championship rival
Clearly, the Black Cats want him to stay but there is certainly not the collective anxiety there was last January when Jermain Defoe began to draw the attention of West Ham United.
Why that may be is an interesting question given how prolific he has been this season, and that the next top scorers in the squad are George Honeyman and Aiden McGeady on four.
From the supporters perspective, there is clearly a sense that Grabban may score the goals but that his running is less than desired.
Certainly, he is a reluctant presser and rarely challenges for the ball in the air.
It is his obvious preference to allow the centre-back to win the header and look to be in the right place to pick up the second ball, but when playing up front his hold up play has been mixed.
That has irked some, though in terms of his desire it is hard to argue that his intelligence of movement has kept the Black Cats afloat. Without him they would be seven points worse off.
For Chris Coleman, his departure would be a blow but the Sunderland hierarchy seem relaxed enough about the situation and perhaps that suggests the manager will be happy enough to use the wages (and matchday squad slot) to find a slightly different profile of player.
Certainly, those familiar with the Wales side Coleman produced will note the stark difference in the insatiable appetite for running, pressing and attacking the channels that Sam Vokes and Hal Robson-Kanu brought to that role.
That Coleman has called for attacking reinforcements regardless of Grabban’s future tells you that he feels something is lacking from his current options.
Perhaps there is a more general apathy that inevitably comes with a raft of loan and short-term signings, fans finding it harder to connect with players and clubs getting used to the high turnover.
Add to this a sense that there may be less substance to the rumours than the noise suggests.
Make no mistake, however, losing Grabban will be a disaster if he is not replaced adequately.
The best case scenario is that he stays and Coleman has the room to bring in another attacking option, taking the pressure of Grabban and allowing the striker the focus on finding the space he needs in the penalty box to win games for the Black Cats.
If he goes, Sunderland will have to radically improve their goal tally elsewhere on the pitch (Grabban currently accounts for 36% of their overall total) to survive.
If getting a different striker, and perhaps one who Sunderland can build for the next two seasons with, means they can do that easier and perform better cohesively then Coleman and most fans will see it as a positive.
The relaxed nature of the manager suggests he has a player, or players, in mind who can do just that.
Fans will have their fingers crossed that is the case. Championship survival will depend on it.