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ANALYSIS: Where Should Sunderland's Intentions Lie In The January Window?

It's anyone's guess as to what business Sunderland will do in this window - just which positions should Big Sam be looking to strengthen first?

Michael Regan/Getty Images

I don't claim to be an expert on Sunderland's finances, and never will. Part of the sexiness of the transfer window is trying to figure out exactly what your club are aiming to achieve, and how they do it. With transfer business there are so many variables - far more than us football fans would ever believe - and ninety-nine percent of the time it's much more complex than just bidding x-amount for a player and bringing him to the club. It is NEVER straight forward.

That said, it completely threw me off when the news of a large bid for Andre Ayew emerged. Being honest, I didn't think we'd be looking to spend anywhere near that amount on a player in this window, let alone on a forward - a position you could argue we are fairly well equipped in, with plenty of options to select from.

It's entirely up for debate, but is spending big money on a player like Ayew the best way to utilise the funds we have available? I'm aware there are people who know far more than I do about these things advising the club on what they can and can't spend, but early transfer business would indicate that we haven't exactly got money growing on trees at the Academy of Light.

The difference between money spent on attacking players and money spent on defensive players by the club since the start of 2011 is staggering.

Although we can't be definite about the exact money spent on players in that time, it's fair to say we as a club have neglected defensive recruitment in order to spend the majority of our budget on attacking players.

(Please note that this doesn't include fees spent on loanees in the same time period)

Permanent Sunderland Signings in Attack and Defence Since 2011
Attacker Signed Price Defender Signed Price
Borini £10m Kirchhoff £0.75m
Lens £8m Kaboul £3m
Defoe Swap for Altidore Coates £2m
Altidore £8.5m Matthews £2m
Giaccherini £6.5m Vergini £0.35m
Scocco £3m Jones Free
Karlsson £1.5m Van Aanholt £1.5m
Watmore £1m Dossena Free
Graham £5m Reveillere Free
Fletcher £12m Diakite Free
Johnson £10m Cuellar Free
Saha Free Roberge Free
McFadden Free O’Shea £4.5m
Ji £2m Brown £1.2m
Wickham £8m
Sessegnon £6m
Total £81.5m £15.3m

Lets suppose the fees in the above table (all taken from reports at the time of the transfers) are correct - it's rather staggering that we have only spent just over fifteen million pounds in transfer fees on defenders in almost five years, especially when compared to the amount spent on attackers.

Almost five years on, we are still relying on Wes Brown and John O'Shea to play on a regular basis.

Would we be better served investing the money being quoted in the Ayew bid in order to strengthen our defence? Perhaps. It's no secret that we've struggled to keep our best players fit and, even then, our best defenders just aren't cutting it. We concede too many goals. Whilst Jan Kirchhoff may well come good, his horror show at White Hart Lane on Saturday would indicate he needs more time to settle at the club before being thrust into the limelight. Lamine Kone may well arrive in the coming days, but like Kirchhoff he's never played in the Premier League and it's impossible to say whether or not he's capable of slotting straight in to a side struggling at the wrong end of the table. What Sunderland need is proven quality right across the back line, but unfortunately it would seem that we aren't in a position to go out and take proven quality from other clubs playing in the top flight.

If Kone comes in - it appears he'd only be coming on a loan deal until the end of the current season - then great. Is he enough though?

It's obvious that Sam likes to play with a back five. The problem with doing that, though, is that you need experienced leaders to organise and delegate, otherwise it's a very easy system to pick apart. We saw that on Saturday, when a change in personnel and formation led to Spurs scoring three goals.

With Lee Cattermole, John O'Shea and Younes Kaboul on the pitch I can see playing the five-man system working just fine. Remove any of those players from that equation and we fall to bits. As soon as inexperienced players - players that perhaps lack the leadership qualities needed to stay organised - are thrust into that situation, we capitulate. We've seen it enough times now this season to know that is pretty much a fact.

The amounts of money we have to spend may well depend on outgoings, with Costel Pantilimon and Danny Graham looking most likely to leave in the coming days. You'd have to imagine the wages we pay to those two are fairly substantial, so it could well be that we're waiting on the sales of one or two before spending on players in other positions.

For me, we need a quality full back. We need an experienced hand to slot in whenever M'Vila or Cattermole are struggling in defensive midfield. Strength in depth, particularly in defensive positions, is the difference between us finishing in the bottom three and finishing in the middle of the pack.

As nice as it would be to see someone with the ability that Andre Ayew possesses playing for Sunderland, I just hope we don't leave ourselves short at the back as a result.

Which positions do you feel should be strengthened as a priority in this transfer window? Leave your comments below this article.

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