Cats Eye View: Djilobodji’s debut performance a rare positive in Boro defeat

Papy Djilobodji
Papy Djilobodji
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On a day of huge frustration for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light yesterday, there were few positives to take following the defeat to Middlesbrough.

A depleted Black Cats team was beaten 2-1 by the newly-promoted Teessiders on a day that David Moyes admitted Sunderland face another relegation battle this season.

Among the players who did come out of the Wear-Tees derby with some credit, though, was defender Papy Djilobodji.

These were not ideal circumstances for the Senegalese international to make his Black Cats debut.

Moyes was left with little choice but to select him, with Lamine Kone unavailable and Younes Kaboul having now departed.

Despite a year at Chelsea, this was Djilobodji’s first taste of the Premier League, and he was up against a buoyant Boro side still enjoying the bounce effect of last season’s promotion.

However, he quickly showed he was up for the battle, winning a towering header in the opening 30 seconds to seemingly set the tone.

Djilobodji was not as dominant as that in the remainder of the game, but did do a decent job shackling Middlesbrough frontman Alvaro Negredo for the most part, even if his marking was too loose at times.

He also showed good ability with the ball at his feet, spraying it out wide on numerous occasions and rarely missing his target.

Following the enforced withdrawal of John O’Shea eight minutes before half-time, Djilobodji suddenly became the senior centre-back in the team.

In fact, he was the only recognised centre-back.

As said, it was far from ideal for his first taste of Premier League football to be under these circumstances, but Djilobodji coped with it well.

He did make occasionally poor decisions as he invariably followed the ball, but, on a day when Sunderland were grasping for some positives, he surely provides some hope for the future.

He’s going to be needed, too.

Moyes would surely have preferred his introduction to the Premier League to have been a smoother, slower one, but he simply doesn’t have that option.

He afterwards revealed that O’Shea had “popped his groin” and would be assessed ahead of the coming games.

That means Djilobodji – who impressed on loan at Werder Bremen in the second half of last season – is likely to be a regular feature in the weeks ahead, particularly if the situation with Kone continues.

Moyes revealed after the Boro defeat that nothing had changed with Kone since Friday, and it appears that may run until the transfer deadline passes.

The former Everton and Manchester United manager will surely be looking to strengthen his backline over the next 10 days, but he will be relieved to already have Djilobodji through the door.

He has much to work on, but there have been some positive early signs.

After waiting so long to make his Premier League bow, Djilobodji is surely now destined for plenty of action.