Central Midfield: Jack Rodwell, And ?
This might be slightly controversial, but I feel we'll hang onto Jack Rodwell next season - for a number of reasons.
One, he's likely on big wages and the fee we paid for him two years ago means we'll likely want any potential buyers to pay something close to what we spent to get him from Manchester City. Two, who is going to want to buy him anyways? His injury record and lack of form since coming here cannot be ignored, and it would take some convincing to persuade a chairman to shell out on a player like Rodwell, who hasn't proven his quality at all since arriving here. Three - if Sam can keep him fit, is he really such a bad squad option?
I'm not really a fan at all, but his Watford performance should give us hope. He likes to get forward, something our other central defensive midfielders just don't do. I'm going to guess that Jack Rodwell will remain a Sunderland player next season, barring a freak bid from another club which would force our hand into letting him go.
For me, that leaves us with one place in the squad for a more attacking central midfielder. Sam himself knows he needs to bring in a more dynamic, box-to-box type option that can get you five or six goals a season, and if we are to persist with playing three central midfielders then it should be treated as a priority.
Attacking Midfielders: Wahbi Khazri, Fabio Borini, Duncan Watmore, And ?
These days very few teams play with out-and-out wingers. Instead, wide players are expected to be able to play anywhere across the attack just in behind the lone striker, often swapping roles throughout games in order to confuse defences and freshen up attack-lines that are struggling to break teams down.
Personally, I feel Wahbi Khazri would be best utilised as a number ten but with Sam looking to strengthen us defensively we've often opted to play three defence-minded players across the middle and two out wide. As a result, Khazri has often played out on the left.
Fabio Borini is another player that has found himself perhaps playing out of position - or has he? Throughout the majority of his time at Sunderland, under various managers, Borini has been used as a wide player due to his work rate and determination off the ball. Though Borini sees himself more as a striker, his best attributes are his work rate and closing down and as a result he's often used on the flanks. Fabio's form towards the end of the season has earned him a place in the Italy squad, so perhaps it's time for him now to accept that he is an attacking midfielder.
Duncan Watmore did himself no harm with his sterling performance against Watford at the weekend and it's fair to say that he's very much a part of the first team plans here.
In my eyes, we require two more 'wide' players that can give us different options depending on who we are playing. Andre Ayew has been linked again and even if we don't sign him, it's a player with his skill set that I feel we require - a wide-forward with pace that can get you goals.
The other slot... well, you'd have to think someone like Rees Greenwood, Lynden Gooch or George Honeyman could settle into that spot. Spending big on a fifth attacking midfielder isn't really a priority, and perhaps promoting from within is our best option.
Strikers: Jermain Defoe, And ?
I've spoke to loads of Sunderland fans that are worried that we might cash in on Jermain Defoe whilst his stock is high but I don't think Sam Allardyce is daft enough to do that. Lets not forget, Jermain scored eighteen times this season - if anything, we need to build around him whilst bringing in another striker to ease the scoring burden on him for the next campaign.
Sam Allardyce teams always have a big, athletic 'number nine' and, in that Goals On Sunday interview he mentioned that he feels we need another striker as a priority, and I agree. There will be games where we perhaps require someone a bit better in the air to hold up the ball, and there will be situations where we have to go with two up front. With Danny Graham, Steven Fletcher and Mikael Mandron all being released this summer, it leaves Sam with an opportunity to replace what was effectively 'dead-wood' with some real quality.
The third option, well... don't be surprised if it's Dame N'Doye signing on a permanent basis.
Do you agree with Gav's thoughts on what Sunderland's attacking options should look like next season? Comment below and let us know.