As Premier League debuts go, Jan Kirchhoff’s Sunderland bow will live long in the memory.
Sadly, for the strapping German, it was for all the wrong reasons.
His attempted ‘challenge’ on Christian Eriksen was woeful at worst, lazy at best.Richard Mennear
With the match at White Hart Lane evenly poised at 1-1 Sam Allardyce took the decision to withdraw Danny Graham from the left wing and switch to three centre-backs.
On came Kirchhoff for his first Sunderland appearance since joining from Bayern Munich for £750,000.
It was clearly a tactical switch by Allardyce, presumably keen to shore up the point, as he had both Fabio Borini and Duncan Watmore to call upon from the bench if he wanted a ‘like-for-like’ replacement for Graham.
Instead, Kirchhoff came running on to take his place alongside captain John O’Shea and Wes Brown.
So far, so good.
But, sadly for all those watching with a Sunderland persuasion, it wasn’t long before it all went horribly wrong.
Sunderland quickly went 2-1 down thanks to Mousa Dembele’s smart finish into the corner of Jordan Pickford’s net before Kirchhoff’s nightmare really began.
His attempted ‘challenge’ on Christian Eriksen was woeful at worst, lazy at best.
He turned his back for a start and simply flung out a leg, deflecting the shot past Pickford – who was excellent on his Premier League debut.
When it came to debuts, Pickford and Kirchhoff’s didn’t compare. They were worlds apart with the England Under-21 stopper again showing why so many ‘big’ clubs are chasing him.
You could forgive Kirchhoff for perhaps being rusty.
He hasn’t played much football this season and with so many first team games this week he hasn’t had chance to get his sharpness back with a cheeky appearance for the Under-21s.
No, instead he was in at the deep end. And he was struggling to stay afloat in front of the watching nation.
Social media lit up as his ’mare continued.
Failing to track back with any urgency, misplaced passes and then his clumsy challenge on Danny Rose inside the box. It was a clear penalty and Harry Kane – who Pickford had managed to keep off the scoresheet up until that point – took his chance from the spot.
There is no hiding place in the Premier League, with Kirchhoff struggling to keep up with its fast-paced and frantic nature.
The 25-year-old looked shell-shocked, like a rabbit in the headlights.
And worryingly he looked out of his depth too.
But let’s not write him off completely just yet.
Everyone is allowed an off day and Allardyce must shoulder a fair amount of the blame too for making substitutions and tactical changes that had a detrimental impact on Sunderland.
Big Sam will argue that he couldn’t have foreseen Kirchhoff’s own personal nightmare and individual howlers. It didn’t work out well for either party.
Allardyce sent assistant Paul Bracewell to conduct the post-match media duties with the written press after taking ill.
It was no surprise given the second-half ‘performance’ produced by Sunderland.
And Kirchhoff’s ill-fated debut must rank as being one of the worst for Sunderland.
The good news for Kirchhoff? The only way is up now.
His confidence will need rebuilding though and it would be a major surprise to see him in the side for the huge game with Bournemouth on Saturday. A spell on the bench beckons.
The problem is, that leaves Allardyce again relying on John O’Shea and Wes Brown, with Sebastian Coates struggling for form too.
Another defender is required. That was highlighted loud and clear at White Hart Lane and talks with Lorient defender Lamine Kone continue over a possible loan.
The £750,000 fee for Kirchhoff seemed like a bargain. A relatively short-term deal at 18-months too. You can’t go much wrong for that price in this market can you?
On this display, Sunderland would be forgiven for trying to get their money back.
But it would be wrong to judge the former Mainz defender solely on this performance. It was tough for him and he won’t have enjoyed the nationwide ridicule but he must improve.
With Sunderland’s top-flight status in the balance, new signings MUST hit the ground running and immediately improve the side.
That’s the reality of the situation.