Aside from the 3-0 loss, perhaps the most significant development from Saturday’s disappointing trip to Stamford Bridge was Karl Henry picking up his fifth booking of the season.
The former skipper will now sit out the Sunderland match, meaning a pretty significant reshuffle of the midfield is needed.
Whilst Henry has missed a handful of games in recent years, Mick has always had his trusted deputies – Kevin Foley and Michael Mancienne – to fill the void.
With one of those players still on the treatment table and the other now living in Germany, he doesn’t have the luxury of a like-for-like replacement.
So, the question is: What will our manager do?
Well, first and foremost, it depends on the formation.
Without Henry last season, Mick largely preferred 442, using Foley in tandem with either Dave Edwards or Nenad Milijas.
However, with Foley unavailable I’m not sure he trusts any central duo enough to handle the responsibility of this shape. The only possible midfield he could pick for a 442 would be something like:
Or, at slightly more of a stretch maybe:
But would anyone bet against:
A five-man midfield is the other option, but that would mean handing a start to either Guedioura or Milijas – both players who’ve made mistakes in recent weeks.
Even so, this would probably be the most likely 5:
With either shape, it will be interesting to see who will be handed the task of sitting in front of the back four.
Jamie O’Hara would seem the likeliest choice, with Dave Edwards pushing forward in his place.
I’ve always felt Milijas could play the holding role but after his Stamford Bridge horror show, will Mick share the same faith?
Probably not I would imagine.
For what it’s worth, I would play the midfield five pictured above, with Fletch retaining his position as the lone-forward.
That would give us a nice choice of options on the bench too with SEB, Hammill, Guedioura and hopefully Doyle all waiting in the wings should things go south.
What Mick will do is a completely different question all-together though.
Your guess is as good as mine on that one.