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Captain's Blog: Cats Well Positioned For Late Transfer Flurry

Prepare yourselves for a late flurry of activity!
Prepare yourselves for a late flurry of activity!

How did we miss it? We are all guilty of it. We were all so bothered about scouring the transfer rumours with a fine tooth comb and focusing on what the squad still needed that we didn't see what the Sunderland squad did have going into the first game of the season - continuity.

Yes, that thing that we have been extolling the virtue of for seemingly ever. That sense of familiarity with the players we support and tactical consistency on the pitch. The feeling of going to the match with some kind of idea as to what to actually expect from our own team rather than knowing we were effectively turning up to witness a total free-for-all. An identity to embrace.

It is an odd quirk of fate that having sought it for years, when we get it we pretty much dismiss its value whilst yearning for change. Fact of the matter is, we owe that opening day point at Arsenal to that continuity.

The media will try and tell you the result was entirely down to the absence from the Gunners' ranks of Robin van Persie. In fact, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville got through a full 5 minutes of detailed analysis of the game on Monday Night Football without even mentioning the word 'Sunderland' once.

I appreciate the need for the media and press to find a story in everything. In the sensationalist world of modern football, whether we like it or not it is their job. No issue there at all. But to skirt over Sunderland's involvement in the game pretty much entirely? That was poor.

The principle reason for Arsenal's failure to score was that they came up against a Sunderland team who were incredibly well prepared and enormously disciplined. It was evident by the way the three central midfield players interchanged their positions so seamlessly to maintain their shape and protect their defence that it was the result of hours worth of training-ground drills and hard work.

That is something that simply can't be achieved on day one of a season with 4 or 5 debutants. It requires a level of trust and familiarity with your team mates that can't be forged in a limited time span on the training ground or pre-season friendlies alone. We should know that better than anyone after the early troubles of last season.

In many ways, the fixture compilers were kind. Some will point with frustration to the general lack of attacking intent Sunderland showed at The Emirates, but a point for anyone away at Arsenal will always be considered a good point earned. By going there on the opening day, O'Neill had plenty of time to prepare and had the result not been a favourable one no one was going to read anything into it.

With that said, there is simply no getting away from the fact that Sunderland need to start getting busy in the transfer market. Battling and disciplined draws away at the top clubs are all well and good, but the squad looks considerably less equipped to take the game to an opposition and win games.

The club's transfer activity - or lack of - has been a persistent source of frustration and, at times, anger for fans throughout the summer. At the time of writing, and with mere days left until the deadline, Sunderland are the only Premier League club to have not spent a penny in transfer fees since the end of last season.

I have shared those frustrations on occasions. I won't deny that. I have also maintained all summer long that Ellis Short and Martin O'Neill have played the transfer market very astutely, however, and it is an assertion I still stand by. Where others have cried negligence, I have tried to plead patience.

Consider the club's now well-documented pursuit of Adam Johnson, for example. I don't know if he will be a Sunderland player in September, but I do know that the club could have gone after a lower quality alternative much earlier and almost certainly got them. They would have had a shiny new face to parade in front of photographers to appease frustrated fans, but we'd all be watching another club chasing Johnson right now.

The nature of the modern transfer market is that the real quality and the best deals are only available later on. In the next week or so we are likely to see more established names of proven pedigree move between Premier League clubs than the last two months combined. They simply were not available for early deals as their clubs prefer to see their own squads take shape before releasing them.

By keeping their money in their pocket and resisting the temptation to compromise on their targets, Sunderland have positioned themselves very well to take full advantage.

The next nine days are going to be a hell of a ride. You suspect there will be a lot of activity on Wearside, or, as Martin O'Neill calls it, 'a late scramble for players'. It is going to be fun. Sometimes it may not be all that pretty. But I have absolutely no doubt that we will emerge the other side feeling pretty good about our chances of real improvement this season.

Strap yourselves in, Sunderland fans. Things are just about to get interesting.

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