Sam Allardyce has taken a large step towards creating a more solid Sunderland defensive line with the signing of center back Jan Tilman Kirchhiff. The Black Cats are currently sitting in 19th with the worst defensive record in the league at 39 goals conceded. Needless to say, Big Sam needed some defensive cover. With Younes Kabul still sidelined through injury, the young German may find playing time much more frequent than his time at previous club Bayern Munich. Kirchhoff only managed 7 starts through his debut 2013-2014 season before being loaned to Schalke. Let's take a look at a few questions which might impact his fantasy selection:
Who is likely ahead of Kirchhoff in the defensive ranks?
Wes Brown and John O'shea have been slotting in at each center back birth since Younes Kabul went out with injury. With Kabul still not likely to return to the first team fold as he recovers from a hamstring problem, Kirchhoff then conceivably has an opportunity in the Black Cat's back-line. Brown and O'shea will need rest and rotation as Sunderland attempt to battle out of relegation. Big Sam has a at very least another option in what is his most glaring concern on the pitch - defense.
What fantasy potential does this leave for Kirchhoff?
It is no doubt Big Sam likes a strong, tall no-nonsense defender, it will remain to be seen if Kirchhoff can fulfill that role. But the 6'5'' German has been described by the former Schalke chief , Horst Heldt, as strong in the air and ability to play in the midfield. This could mean a set piece and corner threat, leading to strong fantasy returns for a budget price. Either way he is used, Sunderland are in desperate need of defensive cohesion if they wish to survive the relegation scrap. With all factors considered, Kirchhoff should have an opportunity to work his way into the starting squad.
Unfortunately, one caveat of Sunderland's newly signed defensive cover man, is his extensive injury list. This is a bit worrying for a player in his mid 20's. However, if Sunderland can find the right way to keep their new signing fit, they may indeed have saved themselves some goals in the second half of the season.