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Why Sunderland need to hang onto Victor Anichebe and offer him a new contract this summer

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As the inevitability of relegation draws closer, so does the prospect of a gargantuan summer overhaul. There’s plenty of players we’ll have to shift whether we want to or not, but there’s one in particular we’d be wise to hold onto.

Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Victor Anichebe was brought in by David Moyes on a free transfer after the formal conclusion of last year’s summer transfer window. For many, he was seen as a cherry atop a crumbling cake of disappointing signings, but he quickly proved that first impressions weren’t everything.

Big Vic’s impact was immediate. The Nigerian frontman nabbed the equalizer against Bournemouth and won a penalty for Jermain Defoe to convert in order to round off the Black Cats’ first win of the season on the south coast with a 1-2 triumph. Anichebe would then follow up one victory with another; a powerful performance in which he would net twice to see of Hull City in a comprehensive 3-0 rout.

A devastating knee injury, which ruled the former-Everton man out for ten weeks, unfortunately got the better of his season. We’re at a point now where Vic could make as much of a nuisance of himself as physically possible, but his impact still wouldn’t be significant enough to salvage this wreck of a campaign.

We won’t get the best out of him as we drift toward the inevitability of relegation, but the Nigerian’s services are something we should definitely retain once we’re down there, as they could be crucial in our bid to bounce back up.

Some will understandably have doubts over the longevity of his time at Sunderland due to his injury record, but there’s plenty of reasons to suggest that this is a risk worth taking.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

First of all, it lightens the load of what will be the massive chore of rebuilding the squad. It’s no secret that we’re due a massive overhaul, as a good number of our first teamers are either out of contract, returning to parent clubs or attempting to leave in order to maintain a higher standard of football. Anichebe is one of those soon to be out of contract, so offering him a fresh one means there’s one less player we’ll need to go through the effort to replace.

Moreover, in terms of both style of play and level of quality, Big Vic is the standard model of front-man for a Championship team pushing for promotion. In a division that tends to prioritize shoulder-barging graft over showboating finesse, Anichebe stands tall as a formidable figure able to rise to the occasion.

He proved in his first two Premier League games how well he can play as a target man alongside a poacher, so we should naturally expect more of the same during his turnouts in the division below.

The likes of Cameron Jerome, Glenn Murray and Chris Wood are built in a similar mold and have terrorized defenses down there - there’s no reason Vic can’t do the same.

His mentality is as valuable as his physicality, too. Anichebe delivered a damning criticism to our performances this season - many of which he’ll have watched exclusively from the sidelines given his injury - and his verdict says a lot about the club’s morale:

[When] you go a goal down, it doesn’t matter, that happens to every team in the Premier League, you need to give yourselves a foundation to come back.

You can feel the nervousness when we concede and sometimes we play to that, attack, attack, and then they break on us.

Vic openly admits, and disdains, the negative mentality held collectively by the team. Now I don’t know about everyone else, but for me the fact that one of our players can make his indignation vocal with such uncompromising vitriol gives me hope that next season we can bounce back.

We need a whole team of players who think what Vic says when we start a game on the wrong foot and a goal is conceded. Having a good squad on paper by Championship standards won’t be enough if they’re haunted by the defeatist demeanor of the season prior and lose their focus when the going gets tough.

We need players that are prepared to work hard, fight on and stay as a unit regardless of the mess we might find ourselves in. Give Anichebe a new contract, and we give him the chance to live up to this.