Sunderland won’t blame injuries for plight as they look to improve midfield control

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Seb Larsson hopes that Darron Gibson can help improve Sunderland’s ailing possession game.

The Black Cats started last Sunday’s clash with Manchester City well, pressing high and forging the best opportunities.

They were let down by their ball retention, however, something which Larsson bemoaned. The visitors took control and their poise on the ball in the final quarter was in stark contrast to the Black Cats’ often rushed approach play.

Despite that frustration, the Swede has seen enough in his new team-mate to hope that he can improve that aspect of their game between now and the end of the season.

Larsson said: “He’s done well – he’s obviously a very good player. It is never easy coming in and playing straight away.

“He’s a good passer of the ball. hopefully that’s something we can use more as the games go on. Hopefully that can be the case and he can take control of games for us.”

Sunderland are also hoping that the return of Jack Rodwell and Jan Kirchhoff can help them maintain their promising starts for 90 minutes.

The Black Cats ran out of steam in the second half against City and struggled to replicate their initial intensity.

David Moyes has invariably made his substitutions late in the game and the return of those midfielders, with Lee Cattermole also expected to return at some stage in April, could help Sunderland compete better.

Sunderland are likely to have six Premier League fixtures in April and will need a bigger pool of players.

Nevertheless, Larsson has refused to blame injuries for their plight, and says the final table will be a fair one.

He said: “We’d love to get all the players back. It is obvious that we’ve struggled with injuries to big players for us throughout the season.

“But, again, that’s just part of football. We can’t ask the Premier League to stop the season because we’ve got injuries.

“We’ve got to crack on, work hard. At the end of the day, normally after 38 games you get a fair league table, so, at the end of the season, we’ll see what it is like.”