Time for Fabio Borini to replace Dame N'Doye in Sunderland side
The Italian striker spent the majority of the second half out warming up on the touchline, ready to enter the fray should he be called upon.
But he didn’t catch the eye of manager Sam Allardyce.
Would Borini – with just two league goals to his name this season – have made a difference? We’ll never know.
With Borini watching on closely, Sunderland played well in the second half and deserved at least a point.
Yet a shocking piece of defending from Patrick van Aanholt and poor finishing from the Dutchman, Jermain Defoe and Jack Rodwell proved their downfall.
Sunderland’s two weak links against the Hammers were Van Aanholt at left-back and Dame N’Doye out wide.
Van Aanholt’s defending was comical for what proved to be the winning goal.
First, he failed to properly clear the ball, instead gifting possession to Michail Antonio who then proceeded to run past the Dutchman like he wasn’t even there before finishing well.
Given his improvement since the start of the season, he can be forgiven for having an off-day.
But the jury remains firmly out on N’Doye.
The 31-year-old Senegal striker’s performance probably added to Borini’s frustration given he has taken his place in the side.
With Duncan Watmore (ankle ligament) and Jeremain Lens (hernia) both out injured, Borini could be forgiven for having expected a run in the side.
Instead, Allardyce has recently opted to play N’Doye wide, rather than in his more natural central position.
Against Manchester United, N’Doye struggled to get into the game and it wasn’t until he moved inside that he posed a threat.
It was a similar story against West Ham, with N’Doye barely getting a sniff in the first half.
He kept swapping wings with Wahbi Khazri, but it had little effect, with Hammers full-backs Aaron Cresswell and Sam Byram enjoying a relatively comfortable day.
While Khazri enjoyed his least effective game in a Sunderland shirt, it was the performance of N’Doye that was more concerning.
In the first half, he struggled to keep possession, pick out a pass, posed little threat and didn’t provide Defoe with much, if any, support.
Sunderland lacked creativity in the opening 45 minutes, with Lee Cattermole almost playing in a No 10 role at times.
It meant Defoe was stranded for large periods.
There was an improvement in the second half, but, for me, on-loan Trabzonspor frontman N’Doye looks far more comfortable when he plays centrally.
He is a striker by trade and hit five goals in 15 appearances for Hull City last season, yet so far he hasn’t looked like scoring since arriving at the Stadium of Light.
If Allardyce is going to play him then it has to be as part of a front two, alongside top scorer Defoe.
But the system Allardyce favours doesn’t allow for that, with Defoe leading the line by himself with support from the flanks. In theory.
If Allardyce is to stick with that system, which has been working well, then Borini has to start wide right in place of N’Doye.
Since arriving on a permanent deal in the summer, Borini has failed to hit the heights of his previous spell on Wearside.
The striker, subject of interest from Sampdoria and Lazio in January, has disappointed, it has to be said.
In his defence, Borini has rarely played in his natural position and he has struggled to hold down a consistent run of games.
But one thing in his favour is that the 24-year-old looks far more comfortable than N’Doye does playing out wide; full of running and energy and more willing to track back.
Perhaps, it is time to welcome Borini back into the side. He has a point to prove, after all.
On Saturday, Allardyce named an unchanged team, incredibly the first time the Black Cats have done so in the league since May 2014.
Tomorrow, there are likely to be changes against Crystal Palace, who are currently sinking like a stone.
It is a real opportunity for Sunderland to get back on track. But, in order to achieve three precious points, there cannot be any weak links.