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Sunderland’s January transfer business - a cause for cautious optimism or genuine concern?

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This past month has cemented the notion that the club have fallen from grace; however, could recent signings be cause for cautious optimism?

Sunderland Unveil New Loan Signing Ashley Fletcher Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

One permanent addition, four loan signings and several departures was the story of Sunderland’s January transfer window.

Jake Clarke-Salter, Kazenga LuaLua, Ovie Ejaria, Ashley Fletcher, and Lee Camp all made their way to the north east, brought to the club by Chris Coleman as he looks to quickly assemble a side capable of avoiding the drop. Out went a host of players including Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan - our only two senior striking options - as well as Didier Ndong.

If truth be told, this window looks to be a short-term solution to a long-term problem, yet unfortunately that’s exactly the position in which we find ourselves right now. We’re languishing at the foot of the table, with little to nothing in the way of financial backing and we need a quick fix to boost our chances of survival. Coleman looks to have tried to do exactly that with this business.

Pace, power and technical ability have been added to the squad in abundance while depth in key positions has also been secured. Athleticism seems to be a common theme among the outfield players signed for the upcoming battle with Clarke-Salter, Ejaria and Fletcher all fit young players standing six-feet or taller.

Furthermore, Kazenga LuaLua adds pace, trickery and flair to our forward line, and will be a real asset when we try and take the game to the opposition. The signing of Lee Camp, on the other hand, suggests Coleman has no faith in his current two first-team goalkeepers, and is seeking a calming influence between the sticks.

Essentially, Coleman seems to have identified the obvious fact that his side sorely lack athleticism - a major flaw to our game. These signings look to address that weakness and give this side a newfound edge that we’ve lacked in recent weeks.

Attacking options including a tall, powerful forward supported by a skillful, pacey player sitting just behind provides a great alternative to the immense amount of pressure recently dumped on the shoulders of Joel Asoro and Josh Maja. That’s not to say these players will be discarded - far from it - instead they will be afforded the chance to progress their game in a more measured way that will certainly help encourage their development.

Sunderland Unveil New Loan Signing Ashley Fletcher
The powerful forward we’ve been looking for to link up our play?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

That being said, as optimistic as I am with these signings, it must be mentioned that every single deal is a short-term one, and doesn’t suggest any sort of long-term vision or plan.

Of course, in a way you can fathom the reasoning behind the limited length deals. The impending threat of a consecutive relegation will be hanging heavy on Martin Bain’s mind, and whether you think his motivations are right or wrong, it’s clear to see that he has sanctioned these signings with the possibility of relegation at the forefront of all negotiations.

Unfortunately, that’s just a depressing indictment of where we are as a club right now. Struggling financially with literally no money to invest in transfer fees, we’ve had to rummage around and find players available on the cheap who fit our criteria and are willing to fight in a Championship relegation battle. We were never going to sign top quality players, were we?

Subsequently, these deals should be applauded despite their fleeting mileage. Should these players fight as hard as Chris Coleman seems to think they will then they’re exactly what we need right now. Should we avoid the drop and cling onto our Championship status we’ll have to go again in the summer and try to forge a team capable of avoiding a relegation scrap whilst also potentially challenging for promotion. If we do go down, there’s five lots of wages we won’t have to cover come season’s end.

It’s horrible being so pragmatic, but awful strategy and leadership over years gone by has forced our hand - Coleman simply has to work with what he’s given.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
LuaLua will be used in a more central role according to Coleman, will he flourish?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Ultimately we’ve strengthened in key areas, and looking at the squad we have a new sense of depth that has perhaps been missing for almost the entirety of this season. If something isn’t going right we have the ability to change our style of play and personnel - how often have we been able to do that this season?

Furthermore, Coleman has noted time and time again with each new signing that these players are on Wearside because they’re up for the fight. Indeed from Clark-Salter’s signing through to Ashley Fletcher’s, Coleman has been adamant that the lads brought into the club are here because they want to fight for the badge.

Coleman has brought these players into their club and lauded their determination, and now it’s time for these new faces to stand up and be counted. Now is the time for these men to shine, to grab this club by the scruff of its neck and drag it to safety.

Coleman has a hell of a job on his hands, but we’re all fully behind him.