ANALYSIS: Swans Defender Could Be Ideal Sunderland Fit

Julian Finney

As ever, there are no shortage of rumours in the press about who Sunderland intend to try to sign this summer. The latest is Ashley Williams, and if there is no interest, there probably should be. Here is why.

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If you believe what you read in the national press, then it appears that Swansea City skipper Ashley Williams has emerged as a potential target for Sunderland this summer as he stalls on a new contract at the Liberty Stadium.

Of course, believing what you read in the national press can be a misleading and ultimately futile pursuit for football fans at this time of the year. It was only last week that the same newspaper proudly proclaimed that Sunderland had agreed a fee with Cardiff City for Jordon Mutch, only for the Bluebirds to outright deny it within hours. It's also the same paper - and journalist - who confidently and repeatedly predicted an acrimonious parting between Sunderland and Gus Poyet right before the Uruguayan signed a new contract.

The question of whether Sunderland are actually actively pursuing Williams here is almost secondary, though. Whether they are or they are not, they certainly should be.

Poyet has publicly said that he is hoping to go into next season with seven defenders in his twenty-three-man senior squad. It is probably safe to presume that Wes Brown and John O'Shea can be pencilled into that already. Billy Jones has already been added and you'd expect the club will be keen to secure the permanent services of Santiago Vergini and Marcos Alonso before too long after very productive loan spells.

That leaves two spots up for grabs and, considering Poyet's reluctance to trust either Vantentin Roberge or Mobido Diakite, you'd presume they'd be filled with a some left back cover and another centre back.

Michael Mancienne of Hamburg has been suggested by many in the press as a possible budget addition, and I don't think it would be as bad a signing as many out there are suggesting, but it's Williams who ticks the boxes.

Statistics tend to be a football writer's best friend these days, and whilst I have no plans to drown the point in them I do think they are worth just touching upon to provide something of a baseline comparison with what we already have - John O'Shea.

Apps Tackles Interceptions Clearances
Blocked
Shots
Total
Passes
Pass
Success
John O'Shea 33 44 51 170 20 1265 84.0%
Ashley Williams 34 53 80 314 36 1936 86.4%

So it's fairly clear that Williams compared favourably to O'Shea pretty much across the board last season in terms of the key statistics. Considering only two teams averaged more possession than the Swans last season, the stats speak very well of Williams' knack of being in the right place at the right time. His pass success rate is impressive too bearing in mind the sheer volume of passes he got through compared to O'Shea.

However, statistics, as always, only tell you half of the story. The fact that Williams has spent the last six years at a club practising a passing, possession-based philosophy nearly identical to that which Poyet is desperate to utilise at Sunderland should be reason enough on it's own for the Welshman to blip on the Black Cats' radar.

You wouldn't be talking about a player here who would need a great deal of time to settle into a new system or grow comfortable with fresh expectations. In a summer which will once again appear to demand a degree of upheaval, that must surely be an attraction.

He is also now firmly tested at Premier League level and proven himself capable of excelling at it whilst, at 29, he is probably coming into the peak years for a centre back when experience, confidence and physical capability all seem to align.

Then there is the fact that he is the captain at both Swansea and for the Wales national side, so he could add some real leadership to a team which often looks desperately short of on-field direction. He has proven his durability too in managing to avoid serious injury and once even managed to amass a run of 100+ consecutive games in a career that is now approaching its 500th appearance.

The suggestion from the press is that Williams, who has just one year remaining on his Swans contract, could be open to a move this summer. Whether that is true, I don't know. It could just be his agent trying to bluff a few extra thousand out of Swansea. Even if he is available, whether he'd entertain a move to the north east or whether Sunderland even want him is largely unknown.

They could do far, far worse, though. In fact I'd say they'd struggle to identify a more tailor-made central defensive target this summer. It would be more towards the sensible end of the signings scale than the spectacular, but the early arrivals of Jones and Jordi Gomez suggest that could well be what Sunderland are principally seeking right now. Perhaps it is time to seek solace in the sensible for a couple of years?

Personally, I'll be hoping that on this particular occasion, the press are not just talking rubbish.

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