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Taking The Sunderland Job (on FM17…) The To-Do List

With the addictive, relationship-threatening Football Manager dropping its latest release on Friday, Carl Purvis takes a look at what he’ll do when he takes over from David Moyes.

Tie Down The Handsome Jan To A New Deal

Jan Kirchhoff has been nowhere near as effective as he was under The Dodgy One last season. Under Allardyce he marshalled games from the base of midfield with an aura of pure control. His anticipation and reading of the game was incredible, his timing in the challenge impeccable, and his range of passing exemplary. Under Moyes, he’s showcased very little of those qualities. Admittedly, his fitness will always be an underlying issue, but the player that oozed class in the first half of 2016 will be integral to the club going in the right direction on the pitch.

Even if we do finally succumb to the drop this season, having Kirchhoff tied down for at least another season will be essential. His quality would shine through in the Championship, and would be the perfect focal point to build a new side around. If we do survive, keeping a hold of the few players that are good enough to cut it at this level is every bit as important.

Either way, I’m going to have to rebuild. Kirchhoff will be a crucial part of the foundations.

Revamp The Centre Of Midfield

Kirchhoff will be at the base of my midfield, operating in a system where he is a sentry, foreseeing danger and snuffing it out before it becomes so. In front of him I want Yann M’Vila. His contract expires at the end of the year and unless Rubin tie him down before then, he’ll be available come the January window. We know all about him, know how good he is and know what we’re getting. Snapping him up will be a top priority.

I’ll need another one, too. Alongside Jan and Yann, I’ll look to the Championship for a busy, attacking midfielder with the ability to arrive late in the area and get up to support Jermain Defoe. The Murphy twins from Norwich look like serious prospects who have the ability to cut it in the Premier League straight away. Both are comfortable playing from wide, but Jacob looks most effective through the middle and has plenty of goals in him.

Bring In Wide Players

On the subject of the Murphy twins, both would fit the bill here. Jacob might look most effective through the middle, but Josh looks arguably an even better player. He is the prototypical modern wide man, and would attack his full back and get himself into plenty of goal scoring positions.

Another option would be a January loan move for Oliver Burke. Scotland’s most expensive ever player is not holding down a starting place at RBL, who currently sit second to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Burke would be perfect for the Premier League. He’s physically imposing, standing at 6’3” with frightening pace for such a big man. He started the season in the Championship on fire, with four goals in just three games before his big move. A loan enquiry would definitely be worth a pop, offering first team football in the Premier League and a chance for him to further develop and showcase his promise. It would be a mutually beneficial move for both parties.

Robbie Brady is another option. I’m stunned that he didn’t move back to the Premier League in the summer, and is better than every other wide player we have. He wouldn’t be cheap, but would arrive with a great attitude and plenty of quality to match.

Having natural wide players at the club is essential, as our full backs simply aren’t good enough to provide the width. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are the best example of how width can be provided exclusively from full backs, but unfortunately we don’t have the quality at our disposal to utilise that.

Bring In A Striker!

At the risk of stating the obvious… An out-and-out centre forward with the attributes to contribute to all of their duties is a top priority. Defoe will score if the chances are created for him, and with wide men and an attacking midfielder to play off M’Vila and Kirchhoff, that’s surely going to happen. He can’t be shouldering the entirety of the burden, though. Brentford’s Scott Hogan or Forest’s Britt Assombalonga could be ideal foils for the custard fiend.

Another Left Back. Preferably One Who Can Defend…

My transfer policy thus far has been to buy young, British players. However, FC Kobenhavn have a young left back by the name of Ludwig Augustinsson who has everything you want in a full back. Already a Swedish international, he is strong positionally, times challenges well and has plenty of pace. His energy gets him up and down the left flank for ninety minutes, and he has a superb delivery on him. Definitely worth a look.

Focus On Youth

One bright spark of the current Sunderland situation is the state of their youth set up. Joel Asoro is a massive prospect and has already been in and around the first team this season, and I’d keep him there. Half of Europe won’t be scouting him without reason, and doing everything possible to develop him here is essential. Young players often have a knack of lifting crowds and senior players around them, and I’d always like to maintain a mix.

Left back is the position where we have the least depth, and I haven’t seen enough from Tommy Robson to think he’d ever be a sustainable answer. Oscar Krusnell arrived with Asoro last year, and good things are thought of him. Again, do everything possible to develop his talents here.

In addition to Asoro and Krusnell, another Swede, Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka and Lee Connelly were both highly sought after before joining Sunderland’s U18s set up. The future could well look bright even if the present doesn’t.

Feasibility?

FM17 is a game, and a lot of the above may well be fantasy. There is no doubt the squad is seriously short on quality, and injecting exciting, young and hungry players is, in my opinion, the best way to address that. Also, if we do succumb to the drop this season, such a blueprint will be our best chance of bouncing back quickly.

Money is obviously the biggest stumbling block, but spending is going to be necessary. I can’t imagine we’ll be blessed with much in the way of transfer funds in FM17, but raising funds through selling the dog toffee, and being shrewd with the proceeds, could well be the answer.

This post may be the by-product of a dream world, but identifying the areas that need urgent change is one thing.

Changing them is another. We live in hope…