Sunderland's Jan Kirchhoff reveals why he's thriving as a midfielder

Jan Kirchhoff feels completely at home in a midfield role, despite primarily being signed to boost Sunderland's central defensive ranks.
Jan Kirchhoff in action against West Ham United.Jan Kirchhoff in action against West Ham United.
Jan Kirchhoff in action against West Ham United.

Kirchhoff was again Sunderland’s stand-out figure in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham, with the German dominating in the middle of the park after recovering from the hamstring issue which forced him off against Manchester United a fortnight earlier.

Sunderland splashed out £750,000 to bring Kirchhoff to the Stadium of Light last month, with a view to strengthening Allardyce’s then scant options in defence, albeit the Black Cats boss was aware that the 26-year-old was an option in a protective midfield role.

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But Kirchhoff had predominantly played as a holding midfielder in his younger years and believes it is that background which has seen him find his feet for Sunderland after a harrowing debut at Spurs when his lack of fitness took its toll.

Kirchhoff told the Echo: “Most people, when they see me, think I’m a defender because I’m so tall.

“But all my life, I’ve played in midfield, especially as a youth.

“I enjoy that role because I like to have the ball.

“I’m a defensive midfield player and I’m trying to play that role as best I can.

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“I’m feeling really good here and really happy with my team-mates. I’m comfortable on the pitch.

“There’s still more to come and make my game even better, even in terms of fitness, because there are times when I have to slow down because I’m not fit enough for the next action.”

Despite Kirchhoff’s contribution towards largely neutering top-six challengers West Ham, Sunderland contrived to suffer a defeat at Allardyce’s former club after spurning a glorious chance to boost their survival prospects.

Patrick van Aanholt’s first-half clanger gifted the Hammers the only goal of the game, while Sunderland missed three gilt-edged second- half opportunities.

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Kirchhoff described the feeling afterwards as “horrible” but hopes Sunderland can develop the knack of converting performances into points - starting with tomorrow’s visit of Crystal Palace.

“For me, that game feels horrible because we put so much effort and power into it, but didn’t get a result from it,” said the former Bayern Munich man.

“We’re in a bad situation; struggling and down in the bottom three.

“The only way to get out of it is to keep our intensity and fight in every game to stay in the Premier League.

“But I think we’re in good shape right now.

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“I think we’ll get results from our performances. Maybe we just need to be a little bit more lucky on Tuesday.”

He added: “Maybe we were a bit passive in the first half, but we defended well.

“We didn’t give them many chances, but then lost the ball in our own half and they scored.

“But, in the second half, we really played well and had so many chances.

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“We were a bit sad after the game, but we have to try to keep that level of performance on the pitch and get points from it.

“Sometimes you can’t explain it, you don’t know the reason why we created so many good chances, but didn’t manage to put it in the net.

“There’s no need to change anything, we just have to go on and put pressure on the opponents, and try to win our next game.”