Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Vito Mannone And ?
With Steve Harper out of contract at the end of the season, Sunderland have a space in their squad up for grabs and it will be interesting to see which direction Sam Allardyce takes with his goalkeepers in the new season, despite the position between the sticks being probably Sunderland's least pressing issue.
Jordan Pickford and Vito Mannone should really go into pre-season on an equal footing, with both men vying for the affections of Sam Allardyce as we look to solidify which of the two is going to be our number one for the forthcoming campaign. Though Vito Mannone's form has improved recently, Jordan Pickford is clearly our long term number one and whether the time is now to pass the responsibility of being a regular starter to the youngster remains to be seen.
Who is our third choice though? Well, we could give Steve Harper a new contract, and if he's going to take up a coaching role with the club then I suppose that would make sense. James Talbot signed a new contract this week but I'd expect the Irish youngster will go out on loan and gain first team experience next year, whilst Polish stopper Max Stryjek also needs to be playing competitive football.
I guess this dilemma is the least of Sam's worries ahead of the forthcoming transfer window.
Full Backs: Patrick Van Aanholt And ?
What happens with Sunderland's full backs is a fairly interesting and perhaps daunting task for Sam Allardyce to overcome.
Patrick Van Aanholt has firmly established himself as a top class performer this season, particularly since the turn of the year, and his improvement under the tutelage of Sam Allardyce has been remarkable. He's been scoring goals, providing assists, improving defensively and has broken into his national team for the first time since joining the club.
That's where the positivity ends, though. Billy Jones and Adam Matthews are just not good enough, and Sam Allardyce's failure to put faith in either men would suggest to me that both will be on their way out of the club this summer. I feel for Billy Jones really, because he's an honest trier, but he simply isn't cut out for Premier League football and at his age, he needs to be playing regularly, something that Sunderland simply cannot offer him.
Rumours today have suggested that DeAndre Yedlin is keen to return to the club on a permanent basis and, if the quoted fee of £2m is to be believed, I am fine with that as a piece of business. Though nowhere near the finished article, Yedlin has improved under Sam Allardyce and that's a fairly decent fee for a player that can cover both full back positions. Hopefully we can get that done and dusted before he leaves for his summer break.
Sam said yesterday on Goals On Sunday that he feels we need another full back, and I agree, especially if Jones and Matthews are to leave. It's important that we add real quality though, and don't find ourselves scrimping around in the bargain basement. Someone with similar attributes to Van Aanholt but on the right side is essential, and those players don't often come cheap. I'd expect we'll look abroad.
Central Defenders: Younes Kaboul, Lamine Kone, John O'Shea and ?
In that interview yesterday on Goals On Sunday, Allardyce stated that he felt we were alright in the centre of defence, so I'd suspect recruiting a centre half is less of a priority than perhaps other positions are. Still, with the departure of Wes Brown, and with no future at the club for Sebastien Coates and Santiago Vergini, we require someone else to shore up the ranks in the eventuality of injury, something Younes Kaboul is no stranger to.
Sam Allardyce's teams always contain two big, brutish centre halves that focus more on defending and less on passing, so any potential recruit will likely be similar in stature to Lamine Kone, a player who has taken to life in the Premier League like a duck to water. Sam said it himself - the value these days is in the French league.
John O'Shea, at the age of 34, should expect to take more of a backseat role as of next season which means we will probably look to bring in someone young yet experienced to fill up that forth central defender spot. Lets not forget that Jan Kirchhoff can provide cover there if needed also.
Central Defensive Midfield: Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole and ?
The biggest bit of transfer business that Sunderland can do in the upcoming summer window is to secure the services of Yann M'Vila on a permanent basis, and I'm sure that you'll all agree. Failing to do so would peg us back massively - his contribution at Sunderland has been absolutely huge this year and Sam himself has said that getting Yann tied down is a priority.
The issue, as it always is, is that his wages at Rubin Kazan are astronomical and we simply don't pay that kind of money. I guess it's down to whether or not M'Vila values the love and respect of Sunderland more than he does that extra thirty or forty grand he's been getting from playing in Russia.
Join us for part two tomorrow as we go through Sunderland's attacking options going into the summer window.
Do you agree with Gav's thoughts on what Sunderland's defensive options should look like next season? Comment below and let us know.