Do Sunderland Need A New Striker?
This poll is closed
Yes: Signing another striker must be a priority
No: We have enough options already
If last week’s narrow victory over Bristol Rovers taught me anything, it’s that Sunderland could probably do with adding to their forward line when the chance arises to do so in January. While Josh Maja has been in prolific form this season it’d be unfair if we kept relying on him to score the brunt of our goals in the second half of the season.
Jerome Sinclair has shown no lack of effort, determination or commitment, but his paltry goal return of just 2 goals in 13 appearances this season tells its own story.
It has become increasingly evident why Sinclair has yet to make a breakthrough in the Premier League with Watford and, unfortunately for him, strikers are judged on goals - and despite ample opportunities to do so, he’s not scored anywhere near enough so far this season.
Now, there is some argument that the imminent return of a fit and firing Watmore and Wyke provides Jack Ross with the necessary striking options he requires, but to me this falls flat for a few different reasons.
Firstly, for all that Watmore is an excellent and potentially game-changing option, he has never been a prolific goalscorer. A quick look at Duncan’s career statistics shows a player with over 100 career appearances and only 20 competitive goals. This is not to denigrate Watmore’s ability or the value he offers to Sunderland, but he is simply not a goalscoring striker, nor does he provide the kind of hold-up play which might unlock the goalscoring potential of Sunderland’s plethora of talented attacking midfielders and wingers.
Secondly, in the case of Wyke, while he has certainly shown he has all the attributes to be a successful striker at League One level, it is all too easy to forget that this is a player coming off the back of a serious knee injury.
Yes, Wyke is a very competent goalscorer as he showed at Bradford and yes, he is certainly capable of the kind of link-up play that Josh Maja has yet to fully develop but there are no guarantees with players returning from this kind of injury.
Jack Ross has shown he knows the value of pragmatism with a raft of canny signings targeted at creating a team capable of grinding out the results needed to win games in League One. Surely now, having seen what his squad is capable of and where they are clearly lacking, the signing of another striker in January must be an absolute priority.
Josh Maja has been a revelation this season: 13 goals in all competitions, with 2 assists. The teenager has scored a goal every 113 minutes, which makes him the most prolific striker in League One and second highest scorer in the division.
Returning from injury in time for the visit of his old side on Boxing Day is proven League One striker Charlie Wyke. 23 goals in his 18 months at Bradford suggests he will be excellent competition for Maja. Given that both players operate in different styles, the pair could even play together.
Add into the mix the return of Duncan Watmore, who has often played as the focal point in attack during his career, and on-loan Watford striker Jerome Sinclair and Jack Ross has, on paper, four players who are adept at leading the line.
The arguments for signing another striker will be the uncertainty of Maja’s future, given no new contract has been agreed, the respective injury records of Watmore and Wyke, and the goals return of Sinclair.
However, Ross’ tactics rarely depend on one prolific striker. Sunderland’s 4-2-3-1 formation accommodates four out-and-out attackers, who are very fluid in their roles.
The likes of Chris Maguire, Lynden Gooch and Aiden McGeady all contribute to creating chances and scoring goals. Ross expects the forwards to make things happen in the final third and constantly offer the team an attacking option.
Sunderland’s tactics don’t allow the opposition to regroup, as would be the case if we built our attacks steadily from defence. Instead, the quality our forwards possess allows us to create and convert a number of goals from within the attacking midfield ranks. McGeady has six goals in 15 games, Gooch has the same number from 21, and Maguire has hit the net five times in his 25 appearances. Given that Gooch has operated as a wing-back on occasion and Maguire has spent some time on the bench, these stats are very impressive.
Still, there will be a call to ease Watmore and Wyke into action whilst relieving the pressure on Maja.
Well, Sunderland have a number of forwards who fit with the new philosophy of developing talent on Wearside. Swedish forward Benj Kimpioka is making good progress in the Academy and impressing during his appearances in the Checkatrade Trophy, whilst Andrew Nelson marked his Darlington debut with a brace. Lee Connelly and Jack Diamond are two others who are highly-rated and have impressed in the Checkatrade Trophy this season.
And who’s to say bringing in a new striker would have an impact?
Unless we’re willing to part with decent money for someone like Tom Eaves at Gillingham, we’re not going to sign a ready-made League One striker this window. Therefore, the options are to sign a fringe player from a Championship side or a young forward from a Premier League academy. Need I mention how successful that policy was when we signed Ashley Fletcher from Boro last season?
I suspect Ross is well stocked with options for the next few months and then there’s the chance to re-assess in the summer, when players currently on our books have been able to prove themselves.
Knowing which division we’ll be in for the 2019/20 season will also determine our recruitment strategy, so there’s little need to tinker now, unless the club receive an offer of ‘silly-money’ for Josh Maja.