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7 Sunderland players are out of contract this summer - who should we offer new deals to?

Seven of Sunderland's first teamers are out of contract this coming summer, and with the club destined for the Championship there are some important decisions to make. Which of them should we look to retain, and who should we wave our goodbyes to?

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Jan Kirchhoff

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of this season has been the poor fitness of Jan Kirchhoff, a player who in my opinion is one of the classiest central midfielders that we have seen at Sunderland in the last decade that we have spent in the Premier League.

Kirchhoff has missed the vast majority of this season due to a variety of issues and it just makes you wonder whether or not he'll ever be able to truly overcome his problems whilst also playing at a challenging level of football.

He was plagued by nagging issues all throughout his time at Bayern Munich, and it was that which prompted the German giants into allowing Kirchhoff leave for such a nominal fee when he came to Sunderland last season.

This isn't a decision that relies upon a frank assessment of his ability, but one that has to be made for the good of the club - is it worth giving Kirchhoff another deal, knowing the issues that he has suffered right across the entirety of this campaign? I'm genuinely torn, because when he is fit he's arguably our best player.

Verdict: No Contract

As much as I really do like Jan Kirchhoff, I think we have to move away from buying that sort of player. He was available to us on the cheap for a reason - going forward Sunderland need to recruit youth, potential and above all else players that we know can play a part in most of the games in the Championship.

Sebastian Larsson

Whilst Sebastian Larsson has been a mainstay in the majority of David Moyes' teams since returning from injury last winter, quite what he offers us in terms of end product and quality is entirely up for debate.

I appreciate players that work hard for the team and play like they genuinely care if we win or not but there's something nagging about Larsson that just makes me really dislike him.

In the Championship we are going to need a blend of experience and youth so there may well be merit in retaining someone like Larsson, who has been at the club now for almost six years - on top of that, you'd expect a player that has spent the majority of their career in the Premier League not to struggle in the league below.

Verdict: No Contract

Whilst I'm not exactly a fan of Larsson I think that he'd probably be a very decent squad option in the Championship, but in truth I think that it is about time we parted ways and moved on. He has scored only five goals in the last five seasons, a pathetic amount from a player who takes all of our direct free kicks around the box when he is on the pitch. Going forward we'll need to bring in players that can add goals and assists from midfield and offer more to our side than just being a hard worker.

Victor Anichebe

Like his team mate Jan Kirchhoff, much of Victor Anichebe's time at Sunderland has been spent in the treatment room. Having taken a number of months to get up to speed fitness-wise it wasn't long before Anichebe was in our team and scoring goals, contributing heavily in four of Sunderland's five league wins this season.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

When he plays, he makes things happen - and that can be a handy weapon to have when you are a team fighting at the wrong end of the table.

In the Championship, though, we'll playing three games in seven days for most weeks and I'm not convinced that Anichebe will be able to stay fit for long enough. If he does he'll be a huge asset to us - it's a tough decision to make.

Verdict: New Contract

With Jermain Defoe expected to leave the club that will leave us with only Duncan Watmore as a viable striking option. In the Championship it will be important that we have variety in our forward line, and Anichebe's positives far outweigh his negatives. Even if he doesn't play every week, there will still be a role for him to play and I think we'd be daft not to offer him a new short-term deal.

Steven Pienaar

Bar a very good forty-five minute spell against Leicester in December - a game where he played well but ultimately succumbed to injury by half time - Steven Pienaar's time at Sunderland has been largely forgettable.

Once a hugely effective goal-scoring left midfielder, Pienaar's best days are behind him and quite why he was signed by David Moyes is anyone's guess.

In the games that he has played in he has been deployed in the centre of midfield, which would be fair enough but for a few things - 1. he cannot tackle, 2. he's slow and 3. he's got the frame of an eight year old boy.

Verdict: No Contract

What much else can I say? His body wouldn't hold up with a Championship schedule and he's well past his best. Lets pack him off to a retirement home.

Joleon Lescott

Joleon Lescott's impact at Sunderland has been minimal - another strange signing made by David Moyes.

Even with the team leaking goals for fun, the Sunderland manager has not elected to use Lescott beyond giving him a brief run out when we were already well ahead against Crystal Palace and it can only be presumed that the former England defender was given a contract with us merely to be there just in case we went through another injury crisis.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The daft thing here is that if he was fit enough and playing, I'd probably be able to make a case for keeping him. Since we literally have nothing to go off, though, I can only presume that our plans for Lescott don't stretch beyond the current length of his contract.

Verdict: No Contract

We've got to really re-shape our squad this summer, and whilst there is always room for one or two more experienced heads in the side there seems very little point in retaining the services of Lescott.

John O'Shea

Like the majority of players on this list, John O'Shea's best years are behind him.

And he's not what you would call a popular figure amongst the majority of Sunderland supporters - he has, after all, been at the club throughout our most recent troublesome times.

But you have to ask yourself - why is it that O'Shea has been the player that various managers have counted upon to come back into the team and offer us some leadership and solidity?

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

His track record speaks for itself - he was seen as a dependable hand for years by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and then when he moved to Sunderland he eventually became club captain and has featured now in well over two-hundred first team games.

Verdict: New Contract

I said previously that we'd need a good blend of experience and youth in our side and O'Shea is one of the 'old guard' that I think it would make sense to retain. There's no doubting that he has his off days but the fact of the matter is that we're already in short supply of leaders and allowing O'Shea to leave and carry on his career elsewhere - probably at a Premier League club - just doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense.

George Honeyman

I've watched George Honeyman now for a number of years for our U23s side and he has always been a player that has impressed me.

At first glance he looks small and is perhaps not as physically imposing as you would expect a professional footballer to be, but his technique is fantastic and he has a real eye for a pass.

George will turn 23 this September and he's played a paltry amount of first team football since turning professional almost five years ago, and that is what concerns me most.

Verdict: No Contract

David Moyes will need to look within the Sunderland academy for players that can give our squad more depth next season, so there's definitely a case for keeping him around, but in truth it's probably for the best that he leaves and goes on to make his name elsewhere at a club where he'll be afforded regular playing time.

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