GUS Poyet hopes Ricky Alvarez can be one solution to Sunderland’s draw frustration.
No other Premier League side has finished all-square as frequently as Sunderland this season, with the Black Cats drawing nine of their 15 top flight outings – five of which have been goalless.
Poyet introduced fit-again Alvarez in the final 20 minutes at Liverpool on Saturday in a bid to secure victory, yet that period corresponded with the only spell of pressure from the hosts.
But the Sunderland boss sees the on-loan Inter Milan midfielder, back in the fold after two months on the sidelines, as playing a key role for the Black Cats over the second half of the campaign, as he gets more familiar with the Premier League.
The Gazette understands that is a view shared by the club’s hierarchy, with Sunderland mindful of Alvarez’s return as they determine their targets for the January transfer window.
“He’s still getting used to the pace in England and he needs to come back slowly,” said Poyet.
“But he could be the difference between winning and losing.
“It’s incredible that we were getting breaks (at Liverpool) with heavy legs and then we changed things with Ricky, but then we didn’t get the breaks.
“You never know what is going to happen, but the idea was to have him in the final third, like the situation Connor (Wickham) had at the end when he was one v one with (Kolo) Toure.
“If he had been fresh, or if that had been Ricky, then it might have made the difference.”
While Alvarez remained among the substitutes at Anfield, Poyet made five changes to his starting XI for the third Premier League game inside eight days; stressing the importance of introducing fresh legs.
Poyet added: “When I decided to make the changes, I went back and checked. Apart from Jozy (Altidore) the team was the same as the one who started against Everton.
“It wasn’t that new or crazy. They knew each other very well.
“The idea was for them to be fresh and I think that’s what we showed in the first half when we were at our best.”
Liam Bridcutt was one of those introduced, with the defensive midfielder impressing on only his second Premier League start of the campaign after replacing the rested Lee Cattermole.
“Lee gave us two outstanding 90 minutes against the top two,” added Poyet.
“But I needed fresh legs and Liam was there.
“It was important that Lee came on and gave us that 20 minutes of passion like usual.
“Liam knows that role to perfection and the things we need from the defensive central midfielder.
“Now they’re going to fight for their place.”