When Dick Advocaat left the club in October he claimed that the squad was 'simply not good enough to avoid relegation', and it seemed that Sam Allardyce agreed with Advocaat when he said that he entered the transfer market because he felt that 'we had to get better than we were.'
The club was languishing in nineteenth place when Advocaat departed and, despite three wins - including yet another Derby success - Sunderland trailed seventeenth placed Swansea by seven points when the transfer window opened.
It was clear that Allardyce had to enter the transfer market. The squad needed fresh faces and players who could inject some positivity and quality into the squad. It was important that he signed the right type of player to fit into the dynamic, a direct contrast to the scatter-gun approach the club appears to have followed over the last few years.
Allardyce acted by adding five players to his squad - Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri, Jan Kirchhoff, Dame N'Doye and Steve Harper.
The gap to seventeenth, occupied by Norwich, is now just one point.
We all know the saying - 'don't count your chickens before they hatch'. Despite a recent upturn in performances and results, Sunderland find themselves second from bottom and one of the favourites to be relegated from the Premier League - that said, from what we've seen so far, the January additions look to be astute and are likely to play an important role in deciding whether the Black Cats survive or not.
Kone and Khazri, in particular, look to be inspired pieces of business by the club. There were doubts as to whether Kone would even join - a protracted transfer saga, in which Lorient were said to be considering legal action against the club, looked to be ending in disappointment until his arrival was eventually confirmed.
Fans are glad that an agreement was eventually reached, and will consider the transfer well worth the wait. Three strong performances in which the French-born Ivorian has shown his physical, no-nonsense approach, have immediately endeared Kone to the Stadium of Light faithful.
Kone has struck up an immediate partnership with John O'Shea, which was acknowledged by his manager after Saturday's 2-1 win against Manchester United.
The pair have done a fantastic job in playing together so quickly, and understanding each other.
Kone scored the all-important winner against United and has brought the physicality and set-piece threat that has been so badly missing from Sunderland for a number of years.
The signing of Khazri, meanwhile, came almost out of the blue. Signed for around nine million pounds, the Tunisian has settled in quickly and has shown the technical ability that saw him become one of Ligue 1's stand-out performers.
Khazri possesses a wicked right foot and has shown good composure and intelligence on the ball, registering two assists and a goal in his three appearances. With Seb Larsson remaining on the treatment table, Khazri has assumed set-piece duties and proven to be extremely dangerous. After coming close to scoring directly from a corner on his debut, two of his set-pieces made the difference against United on Saturday. First, his low, whipped free kick crept into the bottom corner before finding an unmarked Kone to head home the winner from a pin-point corner.
Surprisingly, Khazri has put in the hard work to compliment the flair. He has shown great desire and work ethic in his three outings, and is just as likely to make a tackle on his goal-line as he is to set up a scoring opportunity.
Allardyce's teams have been known for their set-piece expertise, and in Kone and Khazri, he appears to have found his latest dream duo.
The signing of Jan Kirchhoff, on the other hand, was met with mixed feelings. He was cheap, out of favour and injury prone. Conversely, he had played for Bayern Munich and Schalke, featuring in the Champions League in the process.
The German endured a disastrous debut, conceding a penalty minutes after entering the game and turning his back on an effort which deflected into the goal. Big Sam later admitted that he had been wrong to throw him in at the deep end.
His next outing saw him start in holding midfield against Manchester City, and perhaps surprisingly, Kirchhoff was one of the game's standout performers in a narrow 1-0 defeat. BBC Sport later reported that he had made more touches than anyone else. He looked assured on the ball, passing confidently short and long, and helped to prevent City from creating too many scoring chances.
Perhaps more importantly, his presence in holding midfield has allowed Yann M'Vila to push slightly further forward and receive the ball in more dangerous areas.
Kirchhoff went off early with a hamstring injury against United, with Allardyce hoping to have him back in two weeks. With no games until the twenty-seventh, the German may be able to make his return against West Ham and reunite with M'Vila and Lee Cattermole in midfield.
Every Sunderland fan will be well aware that the team are in grave danger of being relegated. The situation has pretty much become the norm for those of red and white persuasion, after all. Based on first impressions, Big Sam's January additions will give him a far greater chance of pulling off yet another great escape on Wearside, and for that he and the board should be credited.