Sam Allardyce believes Jack Rodwell’s strongest position is central midfield and will continue to resist the temptation to experiment with the £10million man at centre-half.
With Younes Kaboul ruled out for up to two months with a hamstring injury and fellow centre-half John O’Shea unlikely to be risked against Liverpool due to a calf problem, Allardyce has a major headache at the back tomorrow night.
But Allardyce is expected to turn to veteran Wes Brown to partner ex-Liverpool man Sebastian Coates in the heart of Sunderland’s defence, rather than gamble on Rodwell – available again after serving a one-match ban.
Rodwell played the majority of his football at youth team level with Everton as a centre-half and after struggling in midfield since arriving at the Stadium of Light 18 months ago, that has prompted plenty of discussion over whether the 24-year-old should be rebranded as a defender.
But despite Rodwell being open to the idea of a positional change, Sunderland boss Allardyce wants to keep the England international in the middle of the park, particularly at this stage of the season.
Allardyce said: “Centre-half is not a strange position for Jack as he has played there as a youngster, but the position of central defender is such a specialist position in terms of the knowledge you need to play there in the Premier League.
“To play someone there without that knowledge is a risk.
“He has the potential, yes, but if I wanted to make him a centre-half I would really want to be teaching him in pre-season the basics of the position.
“That position would also nullify a lot of the abilities that he has got – he’s two-footed, he can pass the ball well, he can run with the ball.
“He could come out from the back and play with it, but he wouldn’t have the same effect that he can do in midfield.
“I think midfield is his best position.”
Rodwell is a strong contender to start in midfield against Liverpool, as is fit-again Lee Cattermole after he came off the bench in last weekend’s drubbing against Manchester City.
Sunderland have lost all four games since Cattermole has been out of the starting XI through a back injury, and Allardyce is well aware of the difference that the Teessider can make.
He added: “Cattermole brings us a bit of tenacity which we have been missing. We need someone to get in their faces, whereas we are standing off the opposition.
“We think we are closing them down, but we are not really. We are two or three yards away.
“If you let the opposition get their heads up, you are in trouble – particularly with a (David) Silva or a Yaya Toure. They will hurt you.”