What a difference a few weeks can make. Sam Allardyce has organised and reinvigorated a side that looked completely inept defensively and devoid of all confidence just a month ago.
One key question looms, though: Is there enough quality to avoid relegation? Probably, but only if we keep the likes of M’Vila, Cattermole, O’Shea and Kaboul injury free.
Discussing the transfer window, before the Stoke fixture, Allardyce said:
"I think the business done in January will be minimal, I don’t think it will be great or extensive. It’s too small of a window to find what you need, which are players who are of greater quality.
"If you make too many changes, we’re already trying to find a solution and a solidarity to our squad, so to introduce another four or five players might actually cause more harm than good.
"I just don’t see the window for anybody being very active. I know where the players are (that I’d like) but I don’t know if I can get them.
"If they aren’t better than what we’ve already got, you may as well say no and keep the group of players that you have. The players we’ve already got here are going to get us out of trouble, not the players we bring in."
It seems clear that Sunderland will only delve into the transfer market if the targets offer substantially more quality than what is currently available, and Allardyce may also have trouble attracting them to the club - an issue previous bosses have faced often in recent years when attempting to recruit players whilst we are struggling.
When looking at the current squad its clear to see that the priority in terms of strengthening should lie in defence. A centre half and a versatile full back would both be welcome additions to a defensive line that appears to lack sufficient depth. It's a point that Allardyce himself has referenced:
"With Wes not being fit, we’ve not got another centre-half. If we got a problem in that area, then we’d have to go back to a back four.
"If we go to a back four and start playing well and getting results, then we might stick with that. But certainly, at the moment, the back three is doing very, very well."
I think we can all agree that a centre half should be top of the shopping list. James Collins is a name that will almost certainly be mentioned given his previous connections with Allardyce. Collins is a solid and uncompromising defender, and there are certainly worse options for us to look at. James Tomkins is another West Ham player that has been linked to us in the press, though he would be a considerably more expensive option.
Olympiakos left-back Arthur Masuaku is a full back name that has been rumoured. Similarly, Leeds United's Sam Byram has reportedly turned down a new deal which will only fuel speculation of him leaving.
In central midfield, despite having plenty of options we are struggling in terms of quality. I for one am not convinced that Jack Rodwell will ever become a decent premier league midfielder - certainly not for us. Ola Toivonen, who in fairness looked solid at Arsenal, often flatters to deceive and Jordi Gomez lacks urgency.
Steven Fletcher has looked a completely different player under Allardyce but with only six months left on his current deal his situation appears to be rather interesting. Fabio Borini has really struggled to find his feet since his transfer in the summer. He has been unlucky with injuries, though, and understandably this could be the reason behind his poor form.
Whilst you'd expect we'll invest in a defender, it doesn't appear that Sunderland will be all that active. Fingers crossed, but it's just starting to look like we won't necessarily need to be either.