Transfer Window Preview

Gabriele Maltinti

With the winter transfer window opening at midnight tomorrow, we take a look at what moves Sunderland may make in the market.

Despite improvements on the pitch with the current squad, which has resulted in a 5 game unbeaten run, the upcoming transfer window could well be pivotal for our hopes of survival.

There was a report, from the BBC of all places, claiming Gus Poyet would not be backed in the transfer market by Ellis Short, a report that, if true, could have been extremely damaging to our hopes of beating the drop but the report was adamantly denied by Poyet in his post-match press conference after the 2-2 draw at Cardiff. The Uruguayan claimed the BBC report was news to him and that we should expect new arrivals in the coming month.

With that in mind, in what areas should we expect the club to strengthen and who may make way for those new signings?

Possible Departures

Craig Gardner, Jack Colback, Kieren Westwood, Seb Larsson, Phil Bardsley, Carlos Cuellar, David Vaughan, Ji Dong-Won and Andrea Dossena are all out of contract in the summer and, as much as the club may want to keep a few of them, they may all be available during this window to raise extra funds due to contract talks being on hold until the club's fate in the Premier League is clearer and that is unlikely to happen before the window closes.

Nottingham Forest may make their loan signing of David Vaughan permanent. Ji Dong-Won is seriously interesting German giants Borussia Dortmund, with reports in Korea suggesting that move may go through when the window opens.

Larsson was recently linked with a January move to Hull, although Steve Bruce was quick to deny those reports. Bardsley was again linked with a move to Fulham and Craig Gardner has become a bit-part player of late and is regularly linked with a move back to the Midlands.

Connor Wickham, who has been a success on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, is rumoured to be a transfer target for Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies, with Burnley also believed to be interested should he become available.

There have been rumours surrounding the future of Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherini, however it's unlikely, though not impossible, the club would sanction their sales with Premier League survival looking a better possibility than it did when Poyet took over.

Of the many summer arrivals, only Cabral's future is likely to come under serious scrutiny. The former Basel midfielder started very well in pre-season and in the Fulham game but has fallen out of favour since amid rumours of a poor attitude behind the scenes. Some of the younger summer arrivals, David Moberg Karlsson and Charis Mavrias in particular, may be available for loan but as signings made with a view to the long-term, are not likely to leave on a permanent basis.

Possible Arrivals

Goalkeeper

Rumoured arrivals: Julio Cesar, Karl Darlow, Jeroen Zoet, Ciprian Tatarusanu and Alex McCarthy

Vito Mannone has taken advantage of Kieren Westwood's injury and looks to have made himself the clear number one, however the Irishman may need shoulder surgery and with his contract due to expire in the summer, and only the promising, but untried duo, Jordan Pickford and Joel Dixon available as back-up/competition for Mannone, a new goalkeeping arrival has emerged as a very real possibility.

Brazilian number one Julio Cesar has been the goalkeeper most strongly linked with a move to the Stadium of Light, with the player currently out in the cold at Queens Park Rangers, it's been suggested he could move to Sunderland for first team football with the upcoming World Cup in his home country in mind. Although Cesar has been a quality goalkeeper in his career and is rumoured to be available for a nominal fee, it's unlikely we will fork out the wages required to sign the 34-year-old and it's debatable whether we would look for a new number one, considering Mannone's recent performances and the recent praise he has been showered with from Poyet.

So far we've also been linked with two young goalkeepers from the Championship, in Alex McCarthy and Karl Darlow (from Reading and Nottingham Forest respectively), and two goalkeepers from abroad, Steaua Bucharest's Ciprian Tatarusanu and Jeroen Zoet of PSV Eindhoven. McCarthy may be unlikely due to the fee Reading will want (a rumoured £8m) but the other three seem like more likely targets than Cesar.

Tatarusanu is out of contract in the summer and Sunderland have had scouts regularly watching the Romanian number one, including sending agents to talk to the 27-year-old and his team-mate Alexandru Bourceanu (more on him later) at Steaua's recent top of the table clash with Astra. Olympiakos and Newcastle are also rumoured to be tracking the 6'6" shot stopper.

The club are also believed to retain an interest in Zoet, who was linked with Sunderland during the summer, as well as Forest's 23-year-old goalkeeper Karl Darlow.

Full Back

Rumoured arrivals: Marcos Alonso, Wayne Bridge, Cyrus Christie, Kyle Naughton

Poyet has showed a clear preference for full backs to play on their correct side when at all possible, with Bardsley back in from the cold and Celustka proving reliable when called upon, the right back position is likely set for the rest of the season but with the unreliable Andrea Dossena at left back, the first of those new arrivals will be Fiorentina's Spanish left back Marcos Alonso.

Alonso, who signed for Fiorentina on a Bosman transfer in the summer from Bolton Wanderers, is an attack minded 23-year-old full back who has been unable to break into the Viola's first team due to club captain Manuel Pasqual and Juan Manuel Vargas standing in his way. He made one appearance for Real Madrid before signing for Bolton, where he took a couple of seasons to really break into the side but impressed once he did, including in the two FA Cup ties against Sunderland last season, as Bolton knocked us out in a replay

Alonso should finalise his move within hours of the transfer window open, a move that should put an end to the speculation linking Wayne Bridge with a return to the club.

Should we receive an offer for Phil Bardsley, who is out of contract in the summer, then the club have also recently been linked with Coventry's Cyrus Christie and Tottenham's Kyle Naughton. Christie is a 21-year-old product of Coventry's academy and has a rumoured £1m price tag, so could be one for the development squad should we pursue him, rather than the direct replacement for Bardsley that Naughton would likely be.

Central Defence

Rumoured arrivals: Jack Baldwin, Jamaal Lascelles

With Wes Brown back to his best, John O'Shea looking more assured when playing alongside him and Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite as solid back up, it's unlikely we will see a senior centre back arrive at the club, even if Carlos Cuellar were to be sold.

Sunderland have been linked with young duo Jack Baldwin of Hartlepool and Nottingham Forest's Jamaal Lascelles, although even if we were to sign either, it would be very unlikely they would see first team football this season.

Central Midfield

Rumoured arrivals: Liam Bridcutt, Raul Meireles, Alexandru Bourceanu, Diego Poyet

With Ki Sung-Yueng showing the quality we've been missing in midfield for years, a priority for January will be to bring in another midfielder or two of similar quality, depending on how many leave, that will fit into what Poyet is trying to achieve.

With that in mind, his former charge at Brighton, Liam Bridcutt is the player most often linked with a move to the club. Bridcutt is a player that Poyet knows well, played a vital role in his Brighton team and should be able to fit straight into the squad without too much fuss. The most recent reports suggest a bid of £2m will be made for the player but it's believed Brighton will ask for around £5m for the Scottish international.

Raul Meireles has once again been suggested as a possible target, as we told you recently, and since then has asked to leave Fenerbache. Although whether the club would fork out €8m, on top of his reported £48,000 per week wages, remains to be seen, especially when Napoli, Porto and Wolfsborg have also been linked.

A possible wild card option in midfield is Steaua Bucharest captain Alexandru Bourceanu, who like his team-mate Tatarusanu was the subject of strong interest from the club at the recent Steaua-Astra game. Bourceanu, is a 28-year-old Romanian international who is out of contract in the summer and was also linked with a move to the Stadium of Light last summer. With wages of around £4,000 per week, he may be a cost effective option, particularly if more than one midfielder (Gardner, Colback, Larsson or Cabral) leaves the club.

We may also see a move to add Poyet's son Diego to the club's development ranks, the 18-year-old is very highly rated but has yet to break though at Charlton and could be available for a relatively modest fee.

Wingers

Rumoured arrivals: Florentin Matei, Nabil Bahoui, Paolo Hurtado

With Johnson, Giaccherini, Larsson and Borini, as well as Mavrias and Moberg Karlsson available to play out wide, it is probably unlikely that we'll see additions in this position.

We have been linked with the Romanian Matei of Volyn Lutsk, AIK Stockholm's Bahoui and Hurtado of Pacos De Ferreira but none of them particularly strongly and it would likely take an unexpected departure for the club to bring in another winger.

Forwards

Rumoured arrivals: Valmir Berisha, Luke James, Danny Ings, Moussa Sow

The misfiring duo of Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore will no doubt give the club a bit of a conundrum in January. The pair are clearly highly rated at the club and were bought for expensive fees but have struggled to make an impact this season. Their struggles are not entirely their fault, with the team struggling to create clear cut chances for them, but that has had an affect on their confidence and, despite Fletcher's improved showing against Cardiff, it may mean the club dip into the transfer market to boost their striker ranks.

The conundrum is whether to try and bring in a quality striker, who will either go in ahead of Fletcher and Altidore or partner one of them, or whether the club stick with those two and try to bring in someone who can act as more reliable back up. Either way, whoever comes in will hopefully be a player with bags of pace, as that's something missing throughout the squad.

So far the strikers links have been few and far between, with the strongest rumour being in regards to Halmstad youngster Berisha, who will choose between Sunderland and two other clubs in the very near future but that will be a signing for the development squad initially, as would Hartlepool's Luke James.

We've also been linked with a move for Danny Ings and are rumoured to still have an interest in Moussa Sow. Ings seems unlikely while we have Wickham still on the books and Sow would certainly be a good signing but has recently spoken of seeing out his contract with Fenerbache, which runs until 2016.

Returns

There is also the possibility of recalling players that Sunderland have sent out on loan.

Danny Graham has continued his poor goalscoring run whilst on loan at Hull, with only one goal so far this season, but with his experience and relative success with Swansea he may fit into Poyet's style.

A more popular return would be Alfred N'Diaye, who has excelled with Eskisehirspor, with 4 goals and 1 assist in 17 games for the side who sit 7th in the Turkish table.

It was recently said that a return for N'Diaye was unlikely but Poyet wasn't giving much away when asked about the chances of N'Diaye and Graham being recalled;

I've thought about it. I'm not going to give out too much information, but people will know in January.

Summary

The absolute priority for the club during the transfer window is to figure out a way to get more goals from our strikers, whether that's bringing in a new striker or two or improving the players throughout the rest of the team and making more chances for Fletcher and Altidore, without this department being improved it will always be a struggle to kill off teams when we are on top (as we found out against Norwich, West Ham and Aston Villa).

Gus Poyet stated his desire to see new signings confirmed as soon as possible when the window opens, so hopefully we are in for a busy week when a lot of questions may be answered.

Stay tuned to Roker Report throughout January as we bring you unrivaled coverage of Sunderland's transfer window.

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