Cats Eye View: Time for Billy Jones to come out of the Sunderland firing line

Billy Jones struggled against Liverpool
Billy Jones struggled against Liverpool
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Sam Allardyce was ruthless when it came to his January transfer business - shipping several players out of the club in a bid to revamp his squad.

Costel Pantilimon, Sebastian Coates, Danny Graham, Jordi Gomez, Steven Fletcher, Will Buckley, Liam Bridcutt among those to depart.

The jury remains firmly out on Jones and whether he is good enough for the top flight of English football

Richard Mennear

And with five players coming in, it was a solid window for the Black Cats.

But one piece of business that Sunderland failed to get over the line and could come back to bite, was failing to sign a new right-back.

The club already had three on its books; Billy Jones, DeAndre Yedlin and Adam Matthews.

Yet Allardyce had still highlighted it as a priority area. And rightly so.

The games against Manchester City and Liverpool again highlighed, that that area of the pitch is Sunderland’s Achilles heal.

And everyone knows it.

Against City, Jones should have got tighter to Sergio Aguero for what turned out to be the winning goal. And on too many occasions he gave the ball away with poor crosses or passes in the final third of the pitch.

Against Liverpool at Anfield, Jones gave the ball away just before the break and almost cost his side.

The 28-year-old then did exactly the same in the 70th minute but this time Roberto Firmino took full advantage, closing Jones down before nicking the ball off him and playing in Adam Lallana for Liverpool’s second.

It was no surprise that both Liverpool’s goals came down Sunderland’s right-hand side, the Reds were targeting that chink in the Black Cats’ defensive armour.

They were fortunate Liverpool chose to start with Joe Allen playing wide left but the course of the game changed when Jordan Ibe came on for the injured Allen just before half-time.

It would be wrong to lay the blame for Sunderland going 2-0 down solely at Jones’ feet. Dame N’Doye should have done more to close down James Milner’s cross for the first goal, while Patrick van Aanholt allowed Firmino a free header.

But Jones, who signed a four-year deal in the summer of 2014 when he joined on a free from West Bromwich Albion, was at fault for the second.

And he hasn’t done enough recently to justify his ongoing selection.

He was subbed at Anfield within five minutes of Liverpool’s second, Yedlin on in his place, with the Spurs loanee adding more pace to the side.

Yedlin defended well when he came on and provides more of an attacking threat.

The Sunderland players deserve an awful lot of credit for coming back against the odds to secure a potentially-crucial point.

But the jury remains firmly out on Jones and whether he is good enough for the top flight of English football.

Hard-working, yes. Versatile, yes. He is capable of playing right and left-back and in the centre.

But should he be guaranteed a starting spot every week?

It is time for Jones to come out of the firing line.

Van Aanholt benefited from a spell out the side after a disastrous start to the campaign. Look at him now: he has seen the biggest improvement under Allardyce. Jones could benefit from a similar spell on the bench.

During the final days of January, Sunderland enquired for Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy while they were also linked with Aston Villa’s Micah Richards and West Ham’s Joey O’Brien.

But hopes of a last-gasp signing fell through.

Allardyce told the Echo: “We were close in the last couple of days, but couldn’t pull it off for a number of reasons.”

Will the Black Cats be made to rue that transfer blow?