The Wahbi Khazri conundrum: Simon Grayson on his best position and first team prospects

Sunderland AFC 0-5 Celtic FC Dafabet Cup, Stadium of Light, Sunderland. 29-07-2027. Picture by FRANK REID
Sunderland AFC 0-5 Celtic FC Dafabet Cup, Stadium of Light, Sunderland. 29-07-2027. Picture by FRANK REID
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After a sparkling start to pre-season, Wahbi Khazri’s Sunderland revival has somewhat run out of steam.

The Tunisian is yet to make a league appearance and despite a number of substitute appearances, the 26-year-old has yet to make a significant contribution.

Part of the problem for Khazri has been the arrival of Aiden McGeady, superb in the inside left role his team-mate played in the opening stages of pre-season.

Simon Grayson, however, insists he has a role to play should he stay at the club, with the playmaker giving him an option to change his system.

Crucially, he also hinted that he believes the pair can play in the same XI.

He said: “He’s a talented player and he’ll play on Tuesday night.

“He just needs to do what is required to get into the team, and then carry on doing it to stay in it.

“When he plays on the left he isn’t a carrier of the ball, taking players on, he’s more of a passer who plays a bit narrower when you compare him to McGeady who tends to be a bit quicker and more effective in that way, which tends to be what I want from my wingers.

“I see him playing as a 10, but so far we have played with two out-and-out strikers so it hasn’t suited him as yet.

“It depends what you want certain players to do,” he said.

“We want players to have quality on the ball and working hard as well.”

“If he can do that, and the others too, then we will have more chance of winning games.”

“He’s a talented player or he wouldn’t be at this club.”

Khazri was used as a second half substitute against Leeds United as the Black Cats struggled to fight their way back into the game.

Sunderland looked to run of steam after a demanding schedule, but Simon Grayson insists that was not the issue.

He said: “When we’ve looked at it all, I don’t think the players ran out of steam – we ran out of ideas, more than anything.

“There was no fatigue in the first 20 minutes when we were the better team, and if we had scored then it would have been a different game because Leeds would have had to come out a little bit more.

“What we know is that when you are behind, whether you have played a load of games or not, you can leave yourself vulnerable on the counter-attack.

“That was what we did to Norwich, and Leeds did it to us at times,” he added.

“So I don’t think fatigue was too much of a problem, although it would have been nice to have a little bit more recovery like one or two of the other teams have had.”