Cat's Eye View: Sunderland boss has a big decision to make over underperforming duo Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong

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Will the real Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong please stand up.

The pair have rightly come in for a heavy dose of criticism for a series of under-par performances in the Sunderland engine room.

Didier Ndong in action against QPR.

Didier Ndong in action against QPR.

Central midfield is key, the heartbeat of a successful side and a key factor in struggling teams if the players aren't producing the goods.

Against Preston North End, both Cattermole and Ndong produced tenacious, aggressive performances, restricting Preston's creative midfielders with their energy and bite.

Fast forward two weeks and it was back to normal, the pair both disappointing in the 1-1 draw with Queens Park Rangers.

Sunderland, utterly devoid of confidence on home soil, were desperate for a win and started well enough. The complexion of the entire afternoon would have been different had Aiden McGeady scored his glorious first half chance.

Lee Cattermole wins a header against QPR.

Lee Cattermole wins a header against QPR.

As he sunk to the turf, his head in his hands, it seemed almost inevitable that Ian Holloway's side would sucker-punch Sunderland. It duly arrived 37 minutes in.

And it was utterly avoidable.

Under no pressure Ndong headed the ball behind for a corner. Idrissa Sylla nodding home the opening goal from the resulting set piece.

Ndong lacked his usual energy, there has always been question marks over his final ball but not his work ethic. The game passed him by.

Poor on the ball, poor off the ball. Simon Grayson had Jonny Williams on the bench and either of the central midfielders should have been hooked long before he came on for George

Honeyman after an hour. Williams should be starting.

Ndong should be a cut above in the Championship yet the odd game aside he has been decidedly average.

The long ball tactic of hoofing the ball up to James Vaughan didn't work and didn't help Cattermole or Ndong get in the game. Grayson has to take responsibility for the tactics.The

approach changed at half-time but QPR were already in front.

But the manager, under increasing fire from fed-up supporters who rightly believe this squad should be far higher up the table, must be disappointed by the duo's performances.

Sunderland struggle to maintain possession in midfield and build any pressure, gifting away possession with awful passing.

Grayson made a point of praising elder statesmen John O'Shea and Cattermole against Preston.

But Cattermole was way off the pace against QPR. Much of the game seemed to pass him by, with Sunderland only grabbing a foothold when Williams arrived.

Preston aside, the pair are yet to form anything resembling a partnership and it is a major headache for Grayson.

Darron Gibson and Jack Rodwell aren't the answer. Playing an extra man - Williams - in there would help. But that means Sunderland sacrificing an extra man up front.

Granted injuries haven't helped but it is worrying that a quarter of the way in Sunderland are yet to find a system that works. Ultimate responsibility lies with Grayson.

The league table doesn't lie; Sunderland deserve to be where they are.

Afterwards Grayson spoke of small steps. Sunderland are in desperate need of big strides.

And finding a winning combination in central midfield is absolutely crucial if this dismal start is to be turned around.

If Cattermole and Ndong can't play together then find a formula and system that does work, especially on home turf before it really is too late.