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The Post Transfer Window Squad Assessment

Now that the dust has settled on the summer transfer window, what shape do we find the Sunderland squad in?

Stu Forster/Getty Images

There's no escaping the fact that we failed to sign Yann M'Vila or bring in a forward to provide backup and competition for Jermain Defoe. Even the transfer-record signing of Didier Ndong has been overshadowed by these apparent failures.

But whether it's bad luck, incompetence, or a lack of funds - whatever the reason may be - we now have to turn our attention to the squad that has been tasked with carrying us through to the January window.

So, what shape do we now find the Sunderland squad in?


Signing a goalkeeper was clearly a priority for David Moyes on the final day of the transfer window. An early move for Norwich's John Ruddy was rejected before a deal to sign the Boavista stopper Mika was announced as the deadline approached. In the early hours of this morning however, the club confirmed that the deal had not been completed.

So where does that leave us? With Vito Mannone set to be out for around three months with an elbow injury, Jordan Pickford remains our only senior goalkeeper. Despite his error for their late equaliser, Pickford enjoyed an impressive performance at Southampton and is highly regarded within both the Sunderland and England set-ups. The club announced at lunchtime that Pickford had been withdrawn from the England under 21 squad after suffering a slight thigh strain on Saturday. This looks to be no more than a precautionary measure however, and you would expect Pickford to be fine for the Everton game in eleven days' time.

For the time being, Max Stryjek is expected to continue first team bench duties, but with the likes of Mark Schwarzer available on a free transfer, the goalkeeper position should not be one that we should be overly concerned about.


Despite losing Younes Kaboul to Watford, and breaking up a key partnership in the process, the defence is the area in which we have improved the most. A back four of Javier Manquillo, Lamine Kone, Papy Djilobodji and Patrick van Aanholt is arguably stronger than the defence that saw us concede just nine goals in our final ten games last season.

Kone, of course, was at the centre of one the summer's biggest transfer sagas. Keeping the Ivorian on Wearside, despite interest from Everton and agent shenanigans, could prove to be one of the most important pieces of business done (or not done) in years

Manquillo impressed on his debut against Southampton, and his presence will take Donald Love - who has clearly struggled in his early Sunderland career - out of the firing line. And while Moyes chose not to add a senior left back to his ranks, Thomas Robson will provide backup and competition for the Dutchman.

Beyond the starting back four, Sunderland can call on the experience of John O'Shea and the highly-rated Jason Denayer, who joined on a deadline-day loan from Manchester City. With Billy Jones set to return from injury in the near future, and the versatility of Paddy McNair, the defence looks to be in decent shape.


The failure to secure Yann M'Vila's early arrival has dominated post-window discussion and will likely continue to do so for a week, at least.

At present, we have four fit central midfielders, or five, if you want to add McNair to the list, with both Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff set to return from injury within a month. Against Southampton on Saturday, Moyes opted for a three-man midfield of Jack Rodwell, Lynden Gooch and Steven Pienaar. The problem with that midfield is that it lacks balance, and really, lacks a specific purpose.

We still don't really know what type of midfielder Rodwell is. Gooch has been thrown in and is still learning and developing as a top-level player, despite some encouraging performances, while Pienaar - who has demonstrated his class and technical ability already - is probably too lightweight to operate in the centre of the park.

And that's where Ndong comes in. He's an unknown quantity, but you have to believe that there is something about him to justify breaking our transfer record to bring him to the club. Ndong was described as an athletic player with "a tremendous work-rate" who "isn't scared to bomb forward," which sounds exactly like the type of player we need.

Things may look a little weak now, but when Cattermole and Kirchhoff return, we have what looks to be a decent midfield on paper. Their return will also allow Pienaar to push forward into a 'number 10' role where his passing ability and craft is better suited.


Aside from the striker position, the wing area looks to be particularly weak, with only Pienaar, Wahbi Khazri, Adnan Januzaj and Duncan Watmore what you would call natural wingers.

Pienaar combined with Leighton Baines down Everton's left hand side with great success for Moyes, but that was a number of years ago. At 34, does he have the physical capabilities to play on the wing, particularly when van Aanholt's defensive weaknesses require a lot of cover work?

Moyes has maintained that Khazri remains a part of his plans. The Tunisian was key to us staying up last year, and his work helping van Aanholt in defensive positions was a vital component of our success. We can only hope that he "gets up to speed" quickly.

Januzaj is clearly someone that Moyes has great faith in. He has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief time at the club, but his decision making leaves a lot to be desired at times. With a lack of depth, you would expect him to be a key part of the team this season.

Watmore enjoyed what many would say was a breakthrough season last year, but his best role within the team remains as an impact player. His control and decision making are both erratic, and we saw last season how effective he could be against tiring defences with his raw pace.

With Fabio Borini set to be out for at least three months, the decision to let Jeremain Lens leave on loan looks more and more baffling. I don't think that anyone would have cried when his departure was announced, but the failure to replace him in the squad is a big question mark against the management.


We are now relying on a near 34-year-old striker to score the goals to see us through to January. Don't get me wrong, he's a bloody brilliant near 34-year-old striker, but if Jermain Defoe gets injured, we're f*****. Of course, we can dip into the free transfer market to sign a backup striker or two, but they're free agents for a reason - nobody is desperate enough to sign them.

Let's take a look at a few:

Nicklas Bendtner - banned from the Wolfsburg training ground and eventually released after being branded a "menace." He has scored just nine goals since leaving us in 2012.

Emmanuel Adebayor - struggled for game time and goals in a spell at Crystal Palace. Questions have to be asked about his motivation and desire in the later stages of his career.

Victor Anichebe - played 167 times for Moyes, but has scored just 37 career goals.

Hardly inspiring then.

Joel Asoro impressed during pre-season and was said to have attracted interest from the likes of PSG during the window, but it's asking a lot of a 17-year-old to act as our primary back-up striker.

During his time at Everton, Moyes conquered a striker crisis by pairing Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini up front to great effect. Unfortunately, we lack both a prolific attacking midfielder and a 6ft 4 monster. In the 2011-2012 season, he suffered from a similar lack of options until the January window, when the arrival of Nikica Jelavić propelled Everton to a 7th place finish. Jelavić ended the season as Everton's top scorer with nine league goals in just thirteen games.

We just have to pray that we can keep Defoe fit and firing until January.

The Verdict

On the positive side, we look to have a strong spine to the squad. Kone, Ndong, Kirchhoff and Defoe should be key players throughout the core of the team until January.

The defence looks strong, combining solidity in the centre with attacking ability in the full back positions, and we now have depth should Moyes look to change to a 352 system, for example. In midfield, once Cattermole and Kirchhoff return in the near future we should possess a stronger and physical presence on the pitch, and their return will allow Pienaar to play further forward.

The attacking areas leave me the most concerned. In Defoe we have a top quality striker, but one injury to him could spell disaster. It really is a case of wrapping him up in cotton wool. There are free agents that we could sign to provide competition, although the options consist of misfits, troublemakers, strikers who couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo and those who just aren't very good.

There are also questions as to who is going to supply Defoe. Pienaar, Khazri and Januzaj undoubtedly possess the quality to deliver the goods, but can they do it on a consistent basis? And yet again, if one or two get injured, we'll be incredibly weak in the final third.

Nonetheless, Moyes' teams average just 1.4 goals per game over his managerial career while conceding 1.2. If we can keep games tight, which the defensive minded players in our ranks suggests we should be able to, and get the ball to Defoe, we all know that it only takes one chance to win a game.

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