The blow to Dan Neil is perhaps good news for Sunderland’s record-breaker.

Sunderland faced a challenging defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough in their last match, losing 4-0 despite being reduced to ten men following Dan Neil’s second yellow card just before halftime. Sam Greenwood, Matt Crooks, Isaiah Jones, and Marcus Forss inflicted the damage on the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light.

This loss marked Sunderland’s second defeat in their last nine matches, a period during which they secured six victories, signaling their ambition to contend for a playoff spot. In light of this setback, Tony Mowbray’s team aims to use the international break for reflection and a comeback strategy.

However, their midfield is plagued by absences, with Dan Neil unavailable due to suspension. Corry Evans and Jay Matete are still recovering from injuries, while Alex Pritchard has not played since their win over Sheffield Wednesday a month ago. Pierre Ekwah’s absence due to a leg injury further compounds their midfield woes.

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The scarcity of naturally defensive-minded midfielders and central options presents a challenge for Mowbray, requiring creative solutions to bolster the team’s chances of success. This situation might necessitate deploying players out of their usual positions, and one player who could step up is the 16-year-old talent, Chris Rigg.

Rigg has made an impact this season, notably becoming Sunderland’s youngest-ever goalscorer in the EFL Cup against Crewe Alexandra. Although he has featured four times in the Championship, he has yet to start a game. Given the current absentee situation, Rigg has a chance to prove himself alongside competitors like Jobe Bellingham and Adil Aouchiche.

Rigg’s style of play is more creative, characterized by his left foot and goal-scoring ability. Despite his lack of senior experience, he has displayed tenacity and defensive prowess when not in possession. The team may need more defensively-oriented players in midfield, but if players like Ekwah remain unavailable, Mowbray might consider pushing Luke O’Nien further up the field.

In any case, providing Rigg with consistent senior minutes is essential to his development and his potential to become a regular fixture in the Sunderland lineup in the long term.

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