Upon appointing Sam Allardyce amid the annual crisis of last season, Sunderland endured a few jeers about adapting Big Sam’s reputably boring football philosophy. Despite that, I doubt a single person watching us this season would’ve stuck by such remarks.
If anything, we became a more offensive side than defensive, contrary to what was expected.
Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini worked tirelessly to provide for a perpetually in-form Jermain Defoe, and Jan Kirchhoff could pick out a pass from the aquatic centre.
But the shape of our team on the back end of last season, in my opinion, won’t quite be the same as the one we’ll see next season. Sunderland have been linked with a good number of defenders with prestige and are seemingly on the verge of bringing in a target man in West Ham United's Senegalese forward Diafra Sakho. We could be in for a fair few long balls come the end of summer.
This is by no means a criticism of the direction that Sam Allardyce wants to take us in, and given the impact of the January signings I’m prepared to trust the man fully.
That being said, it’s understandable if people aren’t particularly excited by this possibility, but I’ll offer some perspective.
Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul already strike up a resilient defensive partnership, as exemplified on the home stretch of the season just gone – and having other options of similar quality will be ideal should the latter continue to be injury prone. What’s more, having Jan Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole - and potentially Yann M'Vila - in front of the back four will get us forward with ease, should a searching through ball be required.
What Sam Allardyce’s side really must aim to achieve is to find the happy medium between the failed philosophies of our previous two managers.
Dick Advocaat’s half-hearted attempt at an all-out-attacking side, balanced accordingly with Gustavo Poyet’s over-reliance on a questionable back line, topped off with a hearty helping of quality may just see us have a normal season yet.
Of course, it’s still early days in the summer transfer market, and what I’m saying could easily fail to go beyond conjecture. But if Allardyce wants to get things right, it’s highly probably he’ll go back to basics - his basics.