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Ligue 1: Who Should Sunderland Target? Part One: Full Backs & Midfielders

Big Sam himself has said that Sunderland will be looking towards players from the French league in order to bolster Sunderland's squad this summer, and with that in mind we asked our friend, French football Journalist Andrew Gibney, to give us some pointers as to which players Sunderland should be targeting in the upcoming summer window.

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Football is a simple game, made more complicated by constant analysis and interpretation. Football transfers are equally as simple, but agendas, agents, fans and players themselves make it a minefield of impending doom.

It’s one thing to recognise a talented footballer, it’s another to recognise a talented player that fits your system. Leicester City have just enjoyed the ultimate success in this area, Newcastle United on the other hand…

Any scout worth his salt could have spotted that N’Golo Kante could be a success in England – toots own horn – and once you sign and fail to help Remy Cabella adapt to the English game, it makes no sense to sign a very similar player, with a more questionable attitude… I'm looking at you, Graham Carr.

Sunderland got it right last January, the signings of Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri were exactly what the club needed and it’s obvious with that in mind that Sam Allardyce has admitted, France will be the focus of this summer’s work.

The Black Cats need to address five areas - they may not all come from across the channel, but here some players that could fit what Big Sam is after.

Right Full Back

In truth, the right full back position is probably one of the weakest in French football - you only have to look at the national team to see the lack of emerging talent.

Lorient defender Lamine Gassama was linked with Sunderland last January, and although he is a free agent, he’s not in the same class as his former team-mate Lamine Kone and unless no one else can be found, it’s worth looking elsewhere.

Djibril Sidibé: Lille OSC

Don’t let last season fool you, Sidibé is a right-back. He played on the left for Lille due to a lack of options. Going forward he was fantastic – scoring four times – but defensively there are huge question marks.

He did improve throughout the season, but perhaps he would be a lot more comfortable on his more natural side. Monaco and Lyon have sounded their interest, but with the likes of Everton and Watford linked, there’s no reason to suggest that Sunderland couldn’t join the party.

Sidibé will not win any awards for his defending, but not many full backs in England would. He plays more like a winger and instantly adds width and pace to the attack.

Hamari Traore: Stade de Reims

This 24-year-old Malian is one of the bright points to come out of a relegation season for Reims. He started 32 games in his debut campaign, helping Aissa Mandi complete his transformation into a centre-back and even popped up with a couple of goals.

He's a very balanced player, and is as comfortable at covering at the back as he is getting up the pitch. He also played as a full-back when the team went to three at the back. He showed that he reads the game well, is not afraid to get his foot in, and has good ability to get crosses in the box.

Traore is contracted until 2018, but with Reims playing in Ligue 2 next season, they could be tempted to cash in.

Dennis Appiah: SM Caen

Dennis Appiah is one of Ligue 1’s most underrated full-backs. Still only 23 years old, Appiah played in every league game for the Normand club last (this) season. In Caen’s 4-1-4-1, there isn’t as much scope to get forward as with other clubs, but he does the defensive side very well.

He’s powerful and stocky and just under six foot tall. Appiah flies into a tackle when needed, but he only got two yellow cards in the whole of the last league campaign. He got just the one assist, but if given more freedom to attack he could be a threat at both ends of the field.

Box-to-box central midfielder

Midfields need balance. If Sunderland are to keep Yann M’Vila, plus utilise the strengths of Khazri through the middle, it would be ideal to add a box-to-box player to complement them both. You want someone who can provide goals, while getting stuck in.

Cheikh N'Doye: Angers SCO

The big – and we mean BIG – Senegalese midfielder was a revelation in France this season. Joining Angers last summer, his rise up the ladder coincided with SCO surprising everyone. At one point they sat second in the table and Ndoye’s nine goals had a huge part to play in that.

Despite being over 6-foot-3, and looking as wide as he is tall, he is also agile and very mobile. Often winning the ball, taking it on the turn and bursting forward. He’s a juggernaut that is hard to stop.

Superb in the air at both ends of the pitch, he also chipped in with a couple of assists. He did turn 30 in March, that goes against him, but for a couple of seasons, he could adapt to become a force of nature in the Premier League.

Prince Oniangue: Stade de Reims

It has all gone a bit quiet for Prince Oniangue at Reims this season. He still managed four goals in a season where they finished in the bottom three, but it seemed a long way away from the 10 goals he managed in 2013/14.

He made a name for himself as a real box-to-box midfielder, scoring nine for Tours FC in Ligue 2 before earning his move to Reims. Oniangue was even recommended to a few clubs in England. His style suits. A strong runner, physically impressive with the ability to finish from outside the box.

At 27 years old, there is still a player in there and he was still the club’s joint-third top goal scorer. His contract runs out in 2019, but he may fancy a change, rather than life in the second tier.

Younousse Sankhare: EA Guingamp

The former Paris Saint-Germain graduate has always promised a lot in his career, it has just never happened on the biggest stage. At Guingamp, he has become one of the club’s leaders, and a player that you perhaps always just expect a little bit more from.

It feels like he has been around forever, but still only 26, he scored six times this campaign, adding two assists as Guingamp finished five points from safety in 16th.

His long stride and lean physique see him charge up and down the pitch. He is a threat from set-pieces and is very active on the defensive end of the game. That has as much to do with how Guingamp play and you could see him doing much more and becoming a threat in the final third if given license to do so.

Full or energy and drive, he deserves a chance to play at a higher level and his style of play seems ready-made for a move to England.

Stay tuned for part two next week - you can follow Andrew on Twitter at @Gibney_A.