Adam Johnson could be handed a central midfield role at former club Manchester City on Boxing Day.
Johnson has been on the bench for each of Sunderland’s last five games after he was dropped following last month’s home defeat against Southampton.
We played Adam Johnson in there at Chelsea and he was terrific, I thoughtSam Allardyce
However, the England international has been making a positive contribution as a substitute – helping to produce a much-improved second-half display in last weekend’s defeat at Chelsea when he came into the action as a central attacking midfielder.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has a major headache in the middle of the park for Saturday’s clash at the Etihad Stadium, with Seb Larsson ruled out through injury, Jack Rodwell suspended and Lee Cattermole doubtful.
That leaves just Jordi Gomez and Ola Toivonen as orthodox midfield options alongside Yann M’Vila, with Toivonen hauled off at half-time against Chelsea after an awful display.
But winger Johnson is in Allardyce’s thoughts to plug that gap against the club where he enjoyed two-and-a-half successful years before joining Sunderland in a £10million move.
Allardyce told the Echo: “We played Adam Johnson in there at Chelsea and he was terrific, I thought.
“I thought he turned the game around for us in possession, so that we were actually an attacking force in the second half.
“I was very pleased with Adam’s performance.
“He’s one who has probably under-achieved and we would like him to get back to what he can produce.
“We know the talent he has from what he’s shown elsewhere.”
Cattermole has returned to training after three weeks out with a recurrence of a back injury and is an outside bet to be included in the squad to face City.
Allardyce will make a decision on Cattermole today and ask the Teessider to provide an honest assessment of whether he is fit enough to return to action.
“We have to get the full consent of the player for me, after he’s had the back injury that has reoccurred,” said Allardyce. “He needs to say ‘yes gaffer, I’m ready to go’.
“I’ll ask that question today.”
Like Johnson, striker Fabio Borini made a positive contribution from the bench at Chelsea and is in contention to start against a City side lying six points adrift of league leaders Leicester.
Borini netted the first goal of his second Sunderland spell with a consolation at Stamford Bridge and Allardyce hopes that provides a boost to the Italian, who has endured an up and down time since returning to the Stadium of Light.
“It was a good goal off a free-kick again – great header from Younes (Kaboul) in the right area and Fabio was in there for the tap-in,” added Allardyce.
“I suppose some might look at it as a slight mistake by the goalie because he spilled it.
“But hopefully that gives Fabio a bit more confidence because we’ve not been scoring enough from the chances we’ve created.”