Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has sprung a surprise when talking about which player is key to his side's attack, highlighting Jan Kirchhoff's vital contribution from deep, according to quotes in the Sunderland Echo.
The German star is a defender by trade but excelled in a deep-lying holding midfield role in the narrow defeat to West Ham United at the weekend.
The January signing from Bayern Munich has a disastrous debut for the Black Cats in the centre of defence a few weeks ago, deflecting a shot into his own net and conceding a penalty, but has improved dramatically since he has started to be used further up the field.
Allardyce hailed the 25-year-old's passing ability, describing him as one of the best players at the club in that department, and suggested that attribute makes Kirchhoff a key component in Sunderland's own attacking moves as well as in stopping the opposition's.
The boss said of the German player, as quoted by the Sunderland Echo: "Jan’s our most productive player in possession. He delivered more balls than anybody else on Saturday, as he did against Manchester City.
"He gets the flow of our attacking forces going with the way he uses the ball and how good he is in terms of his vision of where to play the right ball forwards.
"Jan doesn’t keep possession for possession’s sake. He progresses us into more and more attacks by the way he uses the ball. He sees a pass probably better than anyone else at the club. It’s important for him to be a part of this team in terms of what he gives us with our creativity."
Kirchhoff moved to the Stadium of Light at the start of last month after failing to hold down a first-team place in three years at Bayern.
Sunderland are second-bottom of the Premier League table, one point adrift of safety ahead of the home clash with free-falling Crystal Palace on Tuesday.