Injury brought an enforced halt to Younes Kaboul’s run in the Sunderland starting XI after a harrowing first two games in a red and white shirt for the summer signing.
But Kaboul remains at the forefront of Dick Advocaat’s plans to shore up Sunderland’s fragile defence, despite the shaky start to his Black Cats career.
That’s the reason I started the season with Kaboul. He is younger, sharper, faster
Kaboul hadn’t played a competitive game in seven months before he was thrown straight into the Sunderland line-up for the opening two games, and it showed, with the ex-Spurs man alarmingly exposed by both Leicester and Norwich City.
Advocaat was left with no choice than to take Kaboul out of the firing line against Swansea City last weekend after the Frenchman was sidelined with a minor knee problem, with returning captain John O’Shea prompting a much-improved defensive display in the 1-1 draw.
Yet both O’Shea and central defensive partner Sebastian Coates were culpable for the three pathetically soft goals conceded against League Two club Exeter in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night.
And while Sunderland remain on the look-out for potential defensive additions before Tuesday’s transfer deadline, Advocaat is keen to reintroduce Kaboul when he fit, albeit tomorrow’s trip to Aston Villa is likely to come too soon.
“The way both players (the two centre-halves) played on Tuesday night was not good enough,” said Advocaat.
“They know that and they were very angry with themselves.
“That’s the reason I started the season with Kaboul.
“He is younger, he is sharper, faster.
“But, unfortunately, he got injured, although he will come back soon.”
In fairness to Kaboul, he was given minimal protection during the opening two games, nor was he the only player who looked off-the-pace.
Sunderland have begun to look sharper in their last two outings, even if their defensive concerns have remained.
Yet Advocaat feels Sunderland’s apparent rust is more a lack of organisation, than a lack of fitness.
“When you are too late to the ball, it always looks like you are not fit,” he said.
“But it has something to do with players not doing their jobs, and then their team-mates are too late.
“If the winger is not doing his defensive task and no-one is covering the right full-back, then you have a problem.
“That is a circle which keeps going and that is not good.
“Last season, everyone went together and fought until the end. We saw that even against Arsenal. But they’ve not done that and you can see problems with that.”
While Kaboul is expected to miss the trip to Villa Park, Billy Jones and Jeremain Lens should both return to the starting XI after being left out as a precaution in midweek.
But Adam Matthews (ankle) and Steven Fletcher (concussion) are doubts after coming off against Exeter.
That should see Under-21 pair Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch keep their places on the bench after the duo both impressed in the second half against the Grecians.
However, while Advocaat was pleased with the youngsters’ impact against Exeter, he has warned that the Premier League is a different level.
“The good thing from the other night was that Watmore and Gooch showed what they could do,” he added. “Both did well, but then there is a big difference in opponents between Exeter and Aston Villa.”