Late last month, Jack Ross noted that: “If you were to say to me that I can’t do any business in January, I’d be quite happy. That’s in or out.”
He went on to state that he would be, “quite content because I have a good squad and it has proven itself. You don’t do what they have done without being good and being able to handle the league. So I’m not anticipating us doing huge amounts in January.”
However, as ever in the world of football, things can change in an instant.
There are several first-team players currently attracting interest from elsewhere; for example, Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch have been standout performers this campaign, but their contracts expire this coming summer. Potential suitors could well be keen to add them this winter rather than wait for a bidding war this coming summer if new deals aren’t agreed.
Then there’s the high earners who have all lived up to their billing this season. Bryan Oviedo, Lee Cattermole, and Aiden McGeady are arguably crucial players and have shown their quality - they could well attract interest, and losing their wages could give Sunderland room to manoeuvre going forward.
Of course, there’s also the chance that a potential target suddenly becomes available at the right price.
But should Sunderland find themselves thrust into the maelstrom of the transfer window, which departments could potentially be strengthened?
Sunderland's squad heading into the January transfer window. Would you make any changes? If so, where? Anyone you think might leave? Where do you think our priorities should lie with regards to strengthening?— Roker Report (@RokerReport) December 17, 2018
Let us know. pic.twitter.com/W1fwV8wpg6
In all honesty, Sunderland’s goalkeeping situation is pretty straightforward - Jon McLaughlin is a clear first choice, and Robbin Ruiter is a suitable deputy.
However, should the Dutchman look for first-team football elsewhere, then Jack Ross faces a chose between relying on one of his young untested players, or dipping into the market in order to find a short-term deal for a deputy between the sticks.
Regarding our full-back situation, the left flank is strong with Reece James, Bryan Oviedo, and Denver Hume all impressing this season. Even if Oviedo is snapped up by another club, it’s likely that between James and Hume there is sufficient cover for the rest of the season.
The right side of Sunderland’s defence could do with an addition, however. The seemingly perpetually injured Donald Love has been unimpressive when given a starting role at right back, and despite looking like the Welsh Cafu at times, Adam Matthews has also suffered from a few niggling injuries. Denver Hume covered the position well enough earlier this season, but there could well be the need for an acquisition if the right candidate becomes available.
In central defence Sunderland could well need to find coverage. The partnership of Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin has been relatively impressive this campaign, but their lack of physicality can be worrisome at times.
Glenn Loovens and Alim Ozturk are steady enough, but realistically won’t challenge for a starting berth. Could Ross look to bring in a strong, aerially dominant defender on a short-term deal, or invest in a young defender capable of potentially playing in the Championship?
Jack Ross has a number of players capable of operating in central midfield. Lee Cattermole in particular has been excellent this season, and Max Power has also been impressive despite a couple of sustained absences due to red cards.
Dylan McGeouch is a solid player, but has yet to reach the same impressive form he displayed in pre-season while Luke O’Nien’s energy and determination is slowly beginning to pay off as he pushes for a first-team berth.
Furthermore, Ethan Robson could use a loan move away when fully-fit, and Bali Mumba seems to be developing nicely with cup appearances and a busy England U18 schedule.
If Ross was to invest in this position then a tall, athletic midfielder capable of nullifying the opposition’s ability to physically dominate the middle of the park would be a boost to our side’s promotion chances.
Teams often resort to physicality and a more direct style of play when they come up against our side predominantly because they are unable to compete with our technical proficiency. Strengthening the middle of the park with a physically imposing player of our own could well strengthen our overall game.
The attacking options at Jack Ross’ disposal are truly impressive. In the league, Lynden Gooch has 5 goals, and 7 assists; Chris Maguire has 6 goals and 3 assists; George Honeyman has 2 goals and 3 assists; Aiden McGeady has 5 goals and 4 assists, and Josh Maja has 12 goals and 2 assists.
Only the departure of a first-choice attacker would likely force Jack Ross’ hand in terms of finding an addition - say, for example, if Aiden McGeady was snatched up by a side thanks to his impressive form.
However, with Duncan Watmore and Charlie Wyke returning to fitness after lengthy injury lay-offs, the need for an out-and-out striker is not a priority - unless, of course, a long-term target becomes available. This could also allow Jerome Sinclair to operate out wide where he has looked more comfortable this season.
Sunderland’s strength is largely thanks to a clinical attack; we might not necessarily dominate games, or play what some consider to be ‘attractive football’, but Jack Ross’ side continuously find ways to test the opposition. The quality in our attack ensures that no matter the opposition, we can always find a way to score - hence the fact that we have scored a goal in every league match this campaign.