Dick Advocaat is keeping coy over whether Player of the Year Seb Larsson will provide a solution to Sunderland’s troubles.
Larsson was virtually an ever-present in the Sunderland starting XI last season, with the Swedish international missing just two Premier League games through suspension.
But after starting the opening two matches of the season this time around, Larsson has been restricted to a substitute’s role in the league ever since.
Advocaat has been contemplating whether to adopt a more defensive-minded side after Sunderland have shipped 16 goals in the opening seven games and head into tomorrow’s visit of West Ham without a clean sheet to their name.
Yet the Sunderland boss is guarded when asked if Larsson could come back into his plans, as the Black Cats look to move off the Premier League’s basement.
Advocaat told the Echo: “Yes, he’s one of the players who was a regular last season. It’s a good question why he’s not played so much this season.
“But that’s up to him.
“It also depends on what the team is doing.
“There must be a reason why he hasn’t been playing.”
Despite Larsson’s contribution to Sunderland’s survival last season, Advocaat has been keen to inject fresh blood into a side who have endured three successive near-misses with the drop.
Summer signings Yann M’Vila and Ola Toivonen both immediately moved ahead of Larsson in the pecking order, despite their lack of match fitness.
But with Sunderland only a point better off than they were two seasons ago prior to the ‘Great Escape’, Advocaat has had to consider changes this week prior to the Black Cats’ last chance to record a Premier League win before the second international break.
Larsson is an option in the middle of the park, as is Jack Rodwell, who is expected to be available again after missing last weekend’s defeat at Manchester United with an ankle knock.
But Advocaat’s main dilemma tomorrow will revolve around whether he ditches his favoured 4-3-3 formation in favour of deploying a two-man strike force.
The 68-year-old admitted after the 3-0 loss at Old Trafford that he isn’t completely convinced that either Fabio Borini or Jermain Defoe can operate as a lone striker.