Sam Allardyce wants to keep Jeremain Lens at the Stadium of Light, with Sunderland unaware of any January interest in the Dutch international.
Big money summer signing Lens produced his best performance under Allardyce in Saturday’s 3-1 FA Cup third round defeat at Arsenal after thriving in an advanced central midfield role and opening the scoring for Sunderland.
I would want him to be a big part of what we’re trying to do to get out of the trouble we’re in.
Lens publicly expressed his frustration with life at Sunderland last month after being left out of the defeat at Chelsea for disciplinary reasons and only featuring sporadically inAllardyce’s tenure.
Allardyce admitted that he could consider offers for Lens if he expressed a desire to leave, but he wanted the £13million summer signing to prove his price tag.
Lens began to do just that at the Emirates, with Allardyce keen to harness the 28-year-old’s evident talent, amidst rumoured interest from Dutch giants Ajax.
Allardyce said: “We haven’t had any interest in Jeremain from anybody else, so I would want him to be a big part of what we’re trying to do to get out of the trouble we’re in.
“He’s one of the most expensive players we’ve bought in recent years, so you’ve got to ask that player to live up to that reputation. Some of the skills and ability he showed on Saturday were very encouraging – he scored and looked very strong.”
The reservation over Lens from both Allardyce and predecessor Dick Advocaat was the ex-Dynamo Kiev man’s work-rate off-the-ball.
But the “number 10 position” suited Lens at Arsenal and Allardyce believes he may just have required time to acclimatise to the Premier League.
Allardyce added: “Hopefully he’s got to grips with this level of football, which is hugely difficult in your first season in the Premier League.
“I’ve had many players who’ve taken longer than this, or about this time.
“Very few hit the ground running right from the very start, so you’ve got to give players time sometimes to know this level of football.
“Certainly, Saturday’s performance was very encouraging in the hope that he can continue to perform to that level, if not better.”