Impact of Sunderland's Lamine Kone has been overlooked
Lamine Kone's instant impact at Sunderland has been somewhat overshadowed by the dramatic turnaround in Jan Kirchhoff's fortunes, believes Sam Allardyce.
Kirchhoff has rightly received the plaudits for his performances over recent weeks after the ex-Bayern Munich man has banished the memories of his harrowing debut at Spurs to become a key figure in Sunderland’s midfield.
But fellow January signing Kone has been equally pivotal for Sunderland, if not more so, with the centre-half an ever-present since his £5million move from French side Lorient.
While Sunderland only ended a four-month wait for a clean sheet in Saturday’s stalemate against West Brom, the Black Cats have conceded just nine goals during Kone’s eight games in the side.
That is a vast improvement for a defence that shipped 46 goals in the opening 23 games of the campaign, prior to Kone’s arrival.
Allardyce told the Echo: “You see Kirchhoff on the ball a huge amount of times; intercepting and playing those passes which he can make.
“He protects the back four with his reading of the game, which makes him stand out a little bit more.
“But for the trained eye, when you see how Lamine handles the off-the-ball situations and the opposition centre-forward, he makes the game look so simple.
“He doesn’t do anything miraculous or over-extend himself.
“He just plays the right, simple ball at the right time, and plays in the right areas.
“That’s why he’s done so well.
“For me, he does something which coaches have ignored for many years - teaching defenders how to defend.
“Don’t forget that no natural talent can come to fruition without development.”
Kone’s form has seen him become an instant pick in defence; leaving captain John O’Shea and Younes Kaboul to fight it out for the remaining spot in the heart of the back four.
Kaboul has got the nod for the last three games and the ex-Spurs man has immediately formed an understanding with Kone.
“His (Kone’s) consistent level of performance has been miraculous considering he only joined us in January,” added Allardyce.
“He looks like he’s played in the Premier League all his career.
“That’s the good thing for us.
“At the moment, it looks like John and Younes are fighting for the one place, unless we go to a back three.”