After watching the Lads win a scruffy game at home to Bradford in front of a bumper Boxing Day crowd, it’s clear to see that Sunderland are in need of a couple of additions this January if we are to overcome the other teams up there with us challenging for the title.
In all honesty, the vast majority of our current squad should be quite capable of competing in the Championship. However, should Jack Ross be keen on adding a cutting edge to his squad now ahead of the busy summer window, then a couple of additions this January could well help this team push for promotion as champions.
In particular, a dominant central defender and a nimble, prolific central attacking midfielder seem to be the missing pieces required to complete a jigsaw capable of bringing lasting success to Wearside over the course of the coming campaign and beyond.
In terms of a dominating central defender, Jack Ross needs to find a robust, intelligent centre back capable of asserting his dominance over the opposition.
Sunderland have two solid central defenders in Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin; however, both have been undone on several occasions this season due to a simple lack of physicality. If Sunderland were to find an agile defender capable of controlling the centre of the park in the Sunderland third, then success would almost be a guarantee.
Opposing teams soon realise that Ross’ men often struggle against the long ball, with Flanagan and Baldwin often beaten by a burly forward capable of dictating play aerially. Subsequently, the opposition game plan resorts to a more direct approach.
But, what if Sunderland’s side were more than capable of defending such a situation?
What would teams do then?
Glenn Loovens and Ali Ozturk provide the competition, but truthfully neither has the ability to replace the current central partnership. Sunderland must find a central defender capable of providing competition to the current central duo, or someone capable of winning the battles against lumbering League One forwards.
John Souttar and Scott McKenna are two SPL defenders likely capable of showing their worth in the Championship - a league renowned for its physicality. Could Ross look to familiar settings in search of a commanding presence in his defence?
In term of a central attacking midfielder, Sunderland have tried George Honeyman, Chris Maguire, and Aiden McGeady in the aforementioned role, but you couldn’t say that any of them are a specialist in that role.
Sunderland need a midfielder capable of linking play between midfield and attack. It’s something we’ve lacked at times during this campaign - someone capable of moving the ball forward in the final third before finding a killer pass, or a deadly shot on goal.
A great example would be someone like Bradley Dack who managed to bag eighteen goals and nine assists last season for eventual champions, Blackburn. Even this season Dack has found the net nine times whilst supplying four goals in the Championship.
Sunderland could well do with an advanced midfielder capable of providing the spark we often lack in the final third.
Oldham’s winger Gevaro Nepomuceno is an option out wide, but realistically Sunderland need an out-and-out attacking midfielder. Someone like Brandley Kuwas currently excelling in the Eredivisie could be an outside chance should the current management team be capable of luring the talented Heracles player to Wearside.
Sunderland are undoubtedly doing well so far this season. Thirteen wins in twenty-two games is a great return, especially when you consider Ross’ side are sitting third with two games in hand over top side Portsmouth, who are only five points ahead of the Lads in red and white.
However, if Sunderland are genuinely intent on making a challenge for the League One title, if they are keen on bolstering their ranks now ahead of a potentially difficult Championship season ahead, then adding to the squad this January is simply a must.
We are blessed with options out wide, and the returns of Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore add extra strings to Jack Ross’ already impressive bow up top.
But, adding a commanding presence in the cente of our defence, and a mercurial talent capable of linking play between midfield and attack could well be the exact requirements needed to find a lasting success that could well stretch beyond this current campaign.