Rate The Summer: Right now I am going to give it a perhaps harsh 5/10. I've been very impressed with the progress and speed early on but most of the new players need to prove themselves and losing Mignolet was a blow.
There has also been the full back struggles and the difficulties in landing a top midfield player to consider. It is easy to be greedy but you'd have hoped those pieces would have been in place by now.
With that said, I think we are in for a busy last couple of weeks of the transfer window and I can't wait to see what the new recruitment team have in their locker. They could have easily pulled a 10/10 out of the bag and at this stage we'd never know it.
Best Signing: It is obviously very difficult not to say Emanuele Giaccherini here. Far too difficult for me, certainly. It isn't often that a team who finishes 17th manage to land a full Italian international at his peak from the Serie A champions. It was a major coup for the club and we shouldn't let anyone convince us otherwise.
Minimum Requirement: There simply can't be any relegation fears this season. Last season sapped the life and joy from so many supporters that another season of struggle after such an active summer may test the patience to the kind of extreme that produces eternal bitter cynics.
Realistic Success: I look at the teams who formed mid-table last season and see nothing that we should expect to blow us away. I think top half is both achievable and realistic and it would provide a tremendous platform to build upon next year.
Predicted Position: 9th
Watch Out For...: I fancy this to be the season when Sunderland AFC finally realise the attacking value of full backs. We are about 15 years behind the rest of the world in this aspect of play, tediously labouring under the impression that full backs are defenders first and anything else is a bonus. The reality is that a full back who cannot offer penetration in forward areas are, for all intents and purposes, not actually full backs after all.
Top Four (in order): Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, Manchester United
FA Cup: Chelsea
League Cup: Liverpool
Relegated: Southampton, Stoke, Crystal Palace
Rate the summer: Well we absolutely flew out the blocks regarding transfers, which is very un-Sunderland like. It's been quite enjoyable researching the players we've chased after although there's always some risk in signing unproven Premier League players,
I'd say I'm very happy with the blueprint and the way we've generally went about our business. If we can get a left back and central midfielder on board before the start then it would certainly be an 9/10.
Aside from transfers, I can't help but feel uneasy about the fact we didn't have another pre-season friendly, but there can be no doubt that there's a perfectly good reason for it, such is the meticulous planning methods of Paolo.
As we've yet to sign the elusive creative central midfielder and a recognised left back, I'll go for 7/10. We have to remember that we're an injury to Cabral away from being close to where we were last season in a sense. Bit harsh maybe, but I'm obsessed with our central midfield.
Best signing: It seems logical to plump for Giaccherini so I will. Signing players who have the right attitude is all well and good, but you really did feel we needed a marquee signing of sorts to really ignite the fans' belief in what the manager is trying to achieve here. A current Italy international signing from the Serie A champions, especially one who's an attacking and exciting player exceeded my expectations, certainly.
Minimum requirements: We need to have a season where we don't get sucked into any meaningful relegation battle. Nothing more, nothing less.
Realistic success: Top ten is as possible as bottom of the league in this division, it can all be about those little spurts of high point turnovers from a handful of games created by a bit luck here and there. Top ten and/or a significant cup run isn't beyond the realms of possibility.
Predicted position: 11th
Watch out for...: El Hadji Ba. A player who was hailed as nothing more than a player for the development squad has featured heavily pre-season and appears to be somewhat of an understudy to Cabral. He's very keen, but very rash yet I have a feeling he'll feature more than we all thought this season. On a separate note, I can't wait for the Welsh derbies this year.
Top four (in order): Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd, Spurs
F.A Cup: Arsenal
League Cup: Liverpool
Relegated: Crystal Palace, Hull City Tigers, Fulham
Rate The Summer: An exciting, whirlwind of tenuous links to players from far-flung exotic locations that we have never heard from, even more so than the usual pre-season. Lazy comparisons to QPR’s summer spending spree of last year have been bandied around following Sunderland’s exploits in the transfer market, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
This club required an overhaul, from top to bottom and Di Canio’s recruitment team have identified a different calibre of footballer from the usual that Sunderland often find themselves linked with.
There still remain a number of glaring omissions from the starting eleven however. Yet I wouldn’t bet against the club filling the voids before the window closes at the end of the month. If we can address the fullback slots and add the man with the keys to the middle of the park this may just be a summer we can look back on fondly. 7/10
Best Signing: Emanuele Giaccherini. Rather a predictable answer but the very fact that Sunderland were able to wrestle an Italian international away from the Turin giants, Juventus, is, quite frankly, mental.
The little winger instantly draws comparisons to a former favourite, Steed Malbranque, however the new lad seems to have a little more about him in the final third and looks set to possibly become a real difference maker to our side.
Antonio Conte’s disappointment at losing Giaccherini speaks volumes – I can’t wait to see this lad in action.
Minimum Requirement: A new mentality. I don’t want to see my side go into games with the mentality that the fixture is already lost as has often been the case. At the very minimum we should be looking to compete, and why the hell not?
Teams such as West Brom proved last year that a positive attitude and approach can work wonders and I see no reason why we should not be equaling or even bettering their relative success last year.
As the old Roker Park scoreboard used to beckon: Attack, Attack, Attack
Realistic Success: A mid-table finish, possibly creeping into the top half. While Di Canio’s revolution has been in full swing you still get the impression that this is just the start and that this could very much be a season of transition. Heck, this is Sunderland, it’s also probably just as likely to explode in our face, but for now the signs are promising that a more comfortable season is on the agenda as opposed to a term fraught with relegation worries.
Predicted Position: 11th
Watch Out For...: David Moberg Karlsson. There was something about the way the young Swede took his goal in pre-season which caught my attention. His awareness of the flick on, acceleration with the ball at his feet and, of course, the deft finish to round off the move. While first team football is not likely for Karlsson as things stand, and with competition from other "fringe" players, Ji and Wickham for a place should Altidore, or in turn, Fletcher, be unavailable, I really think this young lad could make an impact from the bench.
Top Four (in order): Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal
FA Cup: Chelsea
League Cup: Manchester City
Relegated: Crystal Palace, Hull, Stoke