Since Jack Rodwell arrived at Sunderland he has given fans on Wearside many topics to talk about. Is £10m too much for a player who struggled to get any game time at Manchester City? Is Rodwell as good as the scouts at Everton made out? Is he too injury prone? All these questions will divide opinion amongst fans but Sunderland will need the midfielder to come good towards the end of the season with crucial games approaching.
Career so far
As mentioned, Rodwell was dubbed the next big thing after impressing for a number of his younger years at Everton. After making 84 appearances for the club, he had attracted interest from some of England's top clubs. It was unfortunate that he chose to make the career threatening move to Manchester City. As history shows, homegrown players that make the move to Eastlands usually don't get a great deal of game time. Just ask Adam Johnson, Scott Sinclair and even Fabian Delph.
In Rodwell's defence, he hasn't had the best of time with injuries. The 24-year-old suffered as many as nine separate injuries in 2015 alone and that has hampered his progress when it comes to illustrating he has what it takes to be a big player in the top flight and the England scene.
His Sunderland performances
The injuries have not stopped since coming to Sunderland but Rodwell has managed to stay fit enough to allow himself some game time which, in turn, has lead him back into the first-team fold in recent months.
Rodwell has played under Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat but he has flourished mostly under the current regime of Sam Allardyce. The current system allows the midfielder to get into attacking positions more frequently than previously and the role has given Rodwell more freedom within his game. Despite this, he has been criticised for not scoring enough goals and missing easy chances.
In a relegation battle such as the one Sunderland find themselves in at the moment, goals are vital and midfielders are relied upon to chip in with their fair share.
Sunderland fans and Rodwell followers may want to look away at this part. Since joining the Black Cats, Sunderland have not won a single league game in which the midfielder has started. Scary.
The future and the possible replacements
If Sunderland end up losing their place in the top flight, it may mean Rodwell remains at the club. It is not clear whether any other Premier League club would be willing to take a risk on the former Evertonian. Sunderland certainly won't get their £10m back for him. However, a season in the Championship may help his development and make him into a better player. There is clearly talent in the youngster, he may just need a solid run of games to show it.
If Allardyce manages to keep Sunderland in the top division, it may be that Rodwell is sold. Allardyce has spoken of his desire to push Sunderland up the table and may want a better, more consistent player to fill those central midfield boots of Rodwell.
A negative for Rodwell is that Sunderland's midfield is big in size. A number of players could potentially walk into the role which Rodwell currently occupies. Lee Cattermole, Ola Toivonen and Jan Kirchoff all hold their own in the central role and with players like Jordi Gomez impressing whilst out on loan, it would be no surprise if a decline in form meant Rodwell loses his spot. The addition of Wahbi Khazri shows Sunderland's intent when it comes to buying top quality players.
Only time will tell what the next step is for Rodwell's career but the positive thing is, he has time on his side.