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An in-depth look at the state of the desperate squad SAFC's next manager will inherit

We all know that Sunderland's squad is incredibly weak, but did you realise just how bad it actually was?

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The extent of just how difficult the squad rebuild Sunderland have to undergo this summer didn't seem completely apparent to me until I listed all of our players, by position, in a table.

With ten out of contract players leaving the club upon season's end, Jordan Pickford moving to Everton and a whole host of others expected to depart in the coming weeks - namely Jermain Defoe, Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri, Jeremain Lens and Fabio Borini - it's safe to say that whoever walks into the Sunderland job this summer has a mammoth task on their hands.

Just take a look at the table that I have compiled below in order to fully appreciate the scale of the job at hand - it's gruesome.

The Evening Chronicle have reported that Sebastian Larsson and John O'Shea are the only ones of our out of contract players who have been offered new deals. It would seem fair to estimate that Larsson will likely opt to move on elsewhere this summer, whilst O'Shea remains a realistic get, particularly when you assess the lack of depth that we now have in the centre of defence.

It truly makes for horrific reading, but it isn't completely irremediable - the key to all of this working out is Sunderland solving their ownership and managerial problems quickly, and if you believe what you read that much could be sorted in a matter of weeks.

Whoever the new manager is has a number of key positions to fill.


With Jordan Pickford now but a distant memory, and there being uncertainty surrounding the futures of the 'keepers that were backup to the now-Everton man last season, it's fair to suggest that ensuring we get the goalkeeper situation sorted once the players arrive back for pre-season training should be somewhere near the top of our to-do list.

At this stage - and looking at the state of our current squad - I'd be more than happy for us to stick with Vito Mannone and Mika as our first and second choice keepers.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - Premier League 2
Max Stryjek - currently away with the Poland U21s side at the European Championships - is highly thought of. Could he be ready to take one step closer to our first team, or would a loan away benefit him more?
Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

With promising Polish youngster Max Stryjek providing cover, it's perhaps the one position that Sunderland seem fairly well equipped in.

If the club can somehow convince Vito Mannone and Mika that their futures next season are best spent at Sunderland, we should be alright.


Oviedo, Tommy Robson, Jones, Love - that doesn't seem too bad, does it?

As far as Championship full-backs go we appear to have a decent enough selection of players to choose from, although whether or not Bryan Oviedo will be one of the assets sold off to raise funds this summer is anybody's guess.

It's safe to assume that Adam Matthews will be made available for transfer again regardless of who comes through the door. The Wales international, in theory, should be a sound enough squad option at this level but his playing record since arriving at Sunderland cannot be ignored. Taking his failed spell at Bristol City last season into consideration, and the fact he's barely kicked a ball for us since arriving in 2015, it remains likely that the former Celtic right-back will be headed out of the club at some point this summer.

Central Defenders

Provided that there is a club out there daft enough to actually buy Papy Djilobodji from us this summer then we could be in store for a raft of changes at centre half - though, whether we spend significant money in that position is probably going to be crucial when determining whether or not we're going to amount to anything in the Championship next season.

John O'Shea signing a new deal would, at this stage, be a rather sound piece of business - whilst his best years are way behind him I worry that some semblance of continuity and leadership will be needed in our squad if we aren't to completely self-combust.

Portugal v New Zealand: Round of 16 - FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015
Sam Brotherton is away with the New Zealand national team at the Confederations Cup and will return back for pre-season training later than his teammates.
Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Lamine Kone - apparently available for under £10m depending on what you read - won't be short of suitors and will be one of the next players out of the door, a crying shame when you consider the kind of money we were being offered for him around this time last year.

Sam Brotherton may well be a New Zealand international but he has yet to appear for our first team, whilst Michael Ledger - despite having just completed a loan at Norwegian side Viking Stavenger - surely cannot be expected to jump feet first into the deep end next season.

The lack of depth is massively concerning and, regardless of our budget, we need to strengthen the centre of our defence significantly.

Central Midfield

Our options in the middle of the park don't appear too shabby on paper. Well, for a Championship side at least.

Lee Cattermole is our longest serving player and, providing he can stay fit, will be an asset to the club at that level. The same can be said of Didier Ndong - our most consistent performer last season - and Paddy McNair, who was just hitting his stride before injury cruelly robbed him of his playing time in our last campaign. Darron Gibson has been largely awful since arriving from Everton but in a system that suits his style more he could be an important player and I'm keen to not write him off just yet.

Watford v Sunderland - Premier League
Who will be daft enough to buy Jack Rodwell from us? The likelihood is that we'll be saddled with him for at least another season.
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Jack Rodwell is the only player in the entire squad without a relegation wage cut clause in his contract, meaning it's almost impossible to shift him off our wage bill. Much like with Papy Djilobodji, finding someone stupid enough to buy him might be tricky and perhaps the best we'll do is shipping him out on loan whilst paying some part of his wages.

I see there being very little in terms of change in this position - strange to say when you see the lack of options in other positions.

Wide-Players and Attacking Midfielders

It's in those positions just behind the strikers that I feel Sunderland possess perhaps the most exciting young talent. Duncan Watmore will be a fantastic Championship player when he returns from his knee injury and I have no doubts that he will score goals and cause issues to most defences at that level, whilst Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman will have gained so much from being part of such an awful squad last season - I feel that they have the right sort of attitudes that will have allowed them to learn from the experience of a relegation, move on and improve.

Below that rung of players are the likes of Rees Greenwood and Elliot Embleton, promising youngsters that have been capped at youth level by England and are highly thought of within the club.

The issue is a lack of experience in this position - Wahbi Khazri and Jeremain Lens will not be at the club come the end of the summer transfer window and are two of the players that we can make some money on, meaning that our new manager will have to recruit some proven quality to provide the foil for the likes of Watmore and Honeyman to rotate around and work off.

Norwich City v Sunderland - Premier League
Duncan Watmore has a fantastic attitude and his pace will trouble most defences at Championship level.
Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

For me Sunderland are a club that have always been at their best when their wide players are launching crosses into the box, providing the side with width and creativity. For some reason, particularly in recent years, wingers have become unfashionable and most of the managers that have been in charge in the last decade have preferred instead to shoehorn strikers out wide, contributing to a lack of creativity and panache on our flanks.

Whoever the manager is going to be, I urge you - sign some bloody wingers that have pace and can cross a ball, please!


Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.

Jermain Defoe may still be a Sunderland player in name but every man and his dog knows that he's agreed to sign for Bournemouth. Victor Anichebe won't be offered a new contract, whilst Fabio Borini has been angling for a move away from the club for what seems an eternity now and will no doubt eventually find a suitor back in his homeland.

This, of course, leaves us with a complete lack of options up front - unacceptable when you consider that most of the teams that are promoted out of the division have at least three or four proven forwards in their squads.

Joel Asoro and Josh Maja are promising enough players but I can't help but feel that they'd both benefit immensely from going out on loan at clubs further down the food chain before they're ready to earn their place as first-teamers here. Regardless, we can't be too picky and barring a recruitment miracle I'd expect both of these young men to form some part of our squad next season, whether that be as cover for the first team or as emerging stars.

We need to prioritise certain positions when it comes to our spending and I think putting the bulk of our transfer kitty towards securing a pair of proven goalscorers is vitally essential to how we perform in the Championship.

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