In all honesty, this is probably one of the only areas in which Sunderland don’t really require any immediate investment.
Jon McLaughlin is quite clearly Jack Ross’ first choice stopper, while Robbin Ruiter is a capable deputy. That being said, there is a small chance the Dutch stopper could move on this month - especially if he is in search of first-team football.
If that’s the case, Max Stryjek would be a solid option from the bench, but Ross will have to decide whether the young Polish stopper’s development can be continued in house, or whether it would be better served in League Two or even beyond the Scottish border.
The acquisition of Jimmy Dunne on loan from Burnley is a positive signing. Hearts fans were gutted to see the Irish defender leave, and that bodes well for a Sunderland defence that has looked a little shaky in recent weeks.
That being said, Sunderland could well use another full-back to provide cover for either flank. Adam Matthews has been brilliant this season, but is susceptible to injuries whilst Donald Love seems to be a perpetual member of the treatment room.
On the opposite flank, Bryan Oviedo, Reece James and Denver Hume have all been solid performers this season, yet again each full-back has seen his share of injury concerns.
Luke O’Nien has been brilliant slotting in on the right side of defence, but Ross might well look to bring in a natural full-back in order to secure cover in case of further injuries. The fact that both Matthews and Love are out of contract this summer will also be an issue being scrutinised inside the club - might Ross be tempted to bring in a younger defender now and afford him the chance to settle into new surroundings?
Sunderland are flush with personnel in midfield, but are also arguably in need of reinforcements at the same time. In Lee Cattermole, Dylan McGeouch, Bali Mumba, Max Power, and Ethan Robson, Sunderland have a host of defensive midfield options; however, none have been able to replace the verve, energy, and creativity of the injured George Honeyman.
As such, Sunderland could do well to invest in either an out-and-out number ten capable of playing between the lines of midfield and attack, or a bustling box-to-box midfielder capable of simultaneously bullying the opposition whilst also providing a threat in attack.
Of course, a player like that costs a substantial amount of money, but the addition of a more creative outlet in the middle of the park could be the difference between automatic promotion and a play-off spot.
If Sunderland’s wide forwards can’t find a way to expose the opposition’s defence, then the side often looks somewhat toothless. Could Ross be eager to add another string to his bow with the purchase of a more attack-minded midfielder?
The big story on everyone’s lips is the ongoing Josh Maja contract saga. Will he stay, or will he go, and when?
Maja has scored 15 goals in just under 30 games this season, and should he leave then the club will obviously need to find a prolific replacement capable of finding the back of the net immediately.
Charlie Wyke is still coming up to speed after a lengthy lay-off, and recent reports have suggested that the club are keen on securing the services of anthem-maker, Will Grigg. With 44 goals and 9 assists in 83 League One games, the Northern-Irish forward would be a great addition to the side.
However, Sunderland could do well to add another forward capable of providing cover to the forward line. Jerome Sinclair struggled during his time on Wearside and has since returned to Watford, so even if Grigg does come in to the club, Ross could do well to find another forward - especially if Maja departs in the next two weeks.
Out wide Sunderland could use a tricky winger with good delivery. Gooch, McGeady, and Maguire have all been impressive in spells this campaign, but all tend to be more effective coming inside - something teams are beginning to adjust to. Luke Molyneux and Benji Kimpioka are interesting options, but a tricky winger currently in form could well be the key to finding more goals for Sunderland’s forward.