Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool last Monday offered some much-needed hope after the collapse at Turf Moor just days earlier.
Not just because of the result and the team’s genuine attacking threat, but the vastly-improved work-rate.
Most eye-catching were the two central midfielders, Didier Ndong and Jack Rodwell, criticised at times this season but standing up to the challenge well.
Yet in terms of sheer distance covered, no one matched the work of Sunderland’s wingers.
Seb Larsson’s numbers were impressive, Fabio Borini’s through the roof.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are hailed week-in, week-out for their hard running and ‘gegenpressing’, but only Adam Lallana ran more yards than Borini that day.
Manager David Moyes has hailed that unselfish part of Borini’s game and revealed the importance to his current team, helping to ease the blow of losing Duncan Watmore to a long-term injury.
Moyes said: “That was what Duncan Watmore did for us. When we lost him through injury, it was a big blow, if you look at his distances and what he’s done, Fabio is the same and has helped us get back what we lost with Duncan.”
Yet the challenge for Borini remains the same as it was for Watmore - keep working hard but be more incisive in the final third.
Borini still has just one goal this season, the spectacular volley in a losing cause at Old Trafford.
His boss has admitted that getting more from the Italian is key to improving his side’s league position and attacking output, but reiterated that much of it is out of Borini’s control.
He said: “What we hope to add with Fabio is goals. I’d like to get Fabio higher up the pitch more often, playing near his more natural position. That depends on us getting the ball more. The more we have it the higher up the pitch we get. At Liverpool we had to do the hard graft to get the ball back.
“He can do a bit of both, ultimately he sees himself as a wide attacking player but ultimately with what we’ve got, we need everyone doing a bit of both.”
Against Burnley, Borini showed what he can do, his wonderful pass cutting open the Burnley defence only to be wasted by Javier Manquillo’s wild cross.
Yet on the whole he was a peripheral figure in Sunderland’s attacking, looking to move into central areas but forced further and further back later in the game. Getting the balance right could be key for Sunderland.