Sunderland manager David Moyes admits Papy Djilobodji still has some work to do but he believes the centre-back is starting to improve his performances.
The Black Cats, 1.40 to be relegated, paid £8million for his services in the summer as they tempted fellow Premier League club Chelsea to sell him.
Djilobodji had only played a minute’s worth of English football before his move after coming off the bench in a League Cup final for the Blues.
Despite commanding a big fee, the Senegalese defender endured a shaky start during the early stages of the season.
Against Tottenham in September he made an error that cost his team a draw but he has since formed a decent partnership with Lamine Kone.
The duo were unable to keep a clean sheet last week against Bournemouth but they did defend well to help their side record their first league win of the campaign.
Moyes insists Djilobodji has started to learn what is needed in the Premier League and he expects the player to kick on in 2017.
He told the Chronicle Live: “Papy in lots of ways has played well, we think he’s probably been a bit underrated. A lot of blame has been put his way but I don’t think that should have been the case.
He’s tried to do all the right things. “He’s got a long way to go but he’s got better and he’s not making as many mistakes as some people think he has.”