Whether you like it or not, Sunderland are either going to have to spend big on a striker or run some risk to our precious Premier League status.
The equation to weigh up has three parts to it; first - go with what we have in gambling that Defoe will get, and stay fit for a significant proportion of the first half of the season and that a supporting cast of Borini and Watmore, with a cameo or two from Joel Asoro, is sufficient as back up. Second, identify a mid-range option or thirdly splash big cash on a big name striker.
The first two options are a risk to our footballing prowess; a gamble which once enacted and backfired, could only be rectified in January. The final one means smashing Sunderland’s current transfer record, current budget and fragile accounts. If you were sat in the boardroom, what would you do?
There is a minor hiatus at present in the Premier League and it's bit like Europe before the First World War kicked off. Everyone is staring each other out, waiting for the first party to make a move. One slight twitch and the whole shebang will go off. There's big cash to be spent on big strikers, and everyone wants one.
There are three factors adding to the tension. First, there is a dearth of quality attackers in European football; that much was proven at Euro 2016, and particularly a lack of the very top strikers who are prepared to come to England. Second, a bloated transfer market, awash with clubs with top new managers who are not prepared to risk their reputations in 2016/17 and who expect to blow the TV money to protect them. Third, there are one or two key big striker transfers which are awaiting completion and will kick-start a fresh round of the carousel.
If, at present, this summer’s transfer business is tracking slightly behind that of last year, there’s a whole lot of money still to be spent. Reports earlier in the week suggested that total expenditure this summer had totalled £475m to the 2nd of August. That compared with £525m at the same point last year. Something is still going to go ‘boom’.
The ignition will be something like Romelu Lukaku moving to Chelsea for the mooted £60m-plus fee, or staying put on a bumper deal funded from Everton's 'new' money; and some confirmation should start a merry go round of big money deals. Another one which has rumbled all summer is West Ham's pursuit of Carlos Bacca. Caught up in the wash from one of these deals going off will be the likes of Saido Berahino, Andre Ayew, Diafra Sahko, Loic Remy and Christian Benteke.
Where do Sunderland stand in all of this? In need of a striker, yes; as for budget, who knows? The mid-range options I mentioned earlier are, for the most part, uninspiring. The links of late in the £5m to £10m band include Will Keane of Manchester United (£6.5m) and Stefano Okaka of Anderlecht (£6m); largely a little uninspiring but possessing potential.
Okaka is the latest in this bracket to be mentioned, and he’s an interesting one. He has been training with Anderlecht’s ‘B’ team; seemingly the official line is that there have been some concerns over his condition or fitness. However, his brother was quoted earlier in the week saying this was not the case and hinting at some other mysterious factor being afoot. Okaka was linked with a move to China earlier in the summer and he scored fifteen goals in the Belgian league last year.
In the ‘pricey’ bracket, basically anything above £10m for Sunderland, we’ve currently got a potential renewed interest for Diafra Sahko or an audacious move for Christian Benteke. Both somehow feel like they would fit Sam Allardyce more easily than David Moyes, physical strikers with patchy periods.
Moyes’ Everton strikers tended to be flexible, mobile and, dare I say it, unfashionable units – Nikicia Jelavic, Steven Naismith, Tim Cahill and Marcus Bent to name but a handful. These were players who could fit in as an attacking midfielder as easily as a forward.
David Moyes has always tended to identify players who fit into, or indeed define, the philosophy of club and manager. For that reason, Diafra Sahko or Christian Benteke may be something of a surprise and something of a departure. But, at this stage of the window and with a striking option needed, either would be an exciting signing.
For Benteke, we’re talking huge money; more than double Sunderland’s current transfer record and surely a loan deal is the only way that would happen. Sahko? Well supposedly West Brom were concerned about his fitness to start the season and reports this morning claim Sunderland will revisit their earlier bid. The carousel is boarding, it's time to pay your money and jump on.