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Defining Season Ahead For Sunderland Trio

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The rumour mill is in full swing, and having made our first breakthrough in the market others are expected to follow in the coming weeks. Of the current squad though, there are three players in particular who need to step up and deliver in this campaign if they are to have long term futures on Wearside.

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Jack Rodwell

It was a season to forget for the young midfielder, having made the £10 million move from the Etihad last summer. Struggles with injury were to be expected given his history, and a lack of match fitness is likely a strong contributor to this. Rodwell simply hasn’t played enough games over the last few seasons, and this was evident with a clear lack of overall intensity in his performances whenever picked.

He looked lost when Gus tried to play him further forward, and if he is to assume a role in midfield it is likely to be as a back-up for Cattermole or Larsson if current form continues. It’s up to Jack to force his way into that midfield trio though, as he needs to be playing week in and week out to stand any chance of recapturing the form he showed at Everton.

He has the talent and physical capabilities to do it, but he can ill-afford another season of anonymous performances if he is to grow in to a long term starter. A period of adaptation must be accepted, given his lack of competitive action at Premier League intensity over recent seasons. As I’ve written previously, he also needs to adjust to a side that is going to spend a lot more time without the ball in comparison to the stars at Manchester City.

That being said you can’t be a £10 million player and have too many seasons like last year before the knives start to come out. This coming season could prove to be the most important in Jack Rodwells career, as a Premier League player.

Emanuele Giaccharini

The little Italian was incredibly unfortunate with injuries last season, and this restricted him to just 12 starts for club and country. Having looked very sharp in pre-season, a groin problem led to him missing the start of the campaign and a subsequent ankle injury and re-occurrence wrecked the second part of his season.

Given our eternal creative struggles in midfield, Giaccherini could prove to be like a new signing this season. Its likely Dick has someone in mind for that number 10 role ahead of Cattermole/Larsson, but the Italian could prove to be a valuable alternative or impact sub if things aren’t working.

Technically he’s up there alongside Adam Johnson as our best attacking player and if given more of a central role behind a front man, Giaccherini may be able to provide the guile needed to break down opposition defences. He has shown it in flashes, think back to the 2013/14 ‘great escape’ season and the home defeat to Manchester United under Kevin Ball and the away draw to Manchester City where he created two goals for Connor Wickham.

The worry is always going to be the physical stature of Giaccherini, in a league which is becoming increasingly about pure power and pace. However the Italian deserves another chance to showcase his obvious quality, and the challenge for him is to start really affecting our attacking play on a regular basis.

Connor Wickham

Without doubt, the most frustrating player to watch of any of the current Sunderland squad.

This is a big, big season for Connor Wickham, as he’s becoming a regular starter in an attacking position where you need to be delivering with regularity. The frustration lies in the consistency and his general decision making, which is pretty hard to get your head around for a player at that level. Again he shows it in flashes – I didn't see anyone give Branislav Ivanovic a tougher game last season, and he obviously played an integral part in our great escape under Gus.

There also has to be some acceptance that he is still young, and if he was that talented as a front man it’s unlikely he would be plying his trade at Sunderland. However at the same time you can’t be of that physical stature and preach on social media about the gym, if you’re going to hit that deck that easily. You also can’t justify taking on shots from ridiculous angles or distances, when there are team mates clearly in better positions.

Playing out on the left undoubtedly isn't his preference, and it will be interesting to see if Dick moves him centrally should we fill that void on the left flank. Ultimately we need to be patient throughout his development, but at the same time the club are right to expect progress each year and noticeable improvements within the individual. We need this man to grow into a bully, someone that centre half’s hate playing against in order to keep them occupied for the full 90.

Whoever makes up that attacking trio this season, needs to be delivering with regular goals/assists in order for us to have a successful season. It’s up to Connor Wickham, to make sure his performances and return warrant being part of that trio.