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What signings do Sunderland need to make in the January transfer window?

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Matthew Crichton gives his views on the five positions that he thinks Sunderland need to strengthen in the January transfer window - also suggesting players we could potentially look to sign in order to improve our squad.

Chelsea U21 v Peterborough - Checkatrade Trophy Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

FinalizeA goalscoring striker

Seeing Josh Maja score a hattrick for Bordeaux recently reminded me of the gaping hole he has left within our team. Both Will Grigg and Charlie Wyke have failed to reproduce the form they showed at their previous clubs, as neither have reached double figures yet. Although Marc McNulty has looked more of a goal threat, excluding cup competitions he has failed to achieve consistency.

Sunderland need a Mr reliable - a Kevin Phillips, Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe-like figure who breeds confidence to both the players and fans. Currently our top three goal scorers in League One are midfielders, a statistic which presents our over reliance on Aiden McGeady and Chris Maguire offensively.

I think it is essential for Phil Parkinson to bring in a forward he can trust to deliver. It is unlikely the form of our current batch will drastically improve, therefore bringing in someone on a clean slate is the best option. It does not matter how good our squad is on paper if we do not possess a consistent goal scorer we cannot achieve promotion.

The question we all desire the answer to is ‘how much money will be available?’

Potential options: Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen), Armand Gnanduillet (Blackpool)

Blackpool v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One
Blackpool’s French striker has scored 11 goals so far in League One this season.
Photo by Kevin Barnes - CameraSport via Getty Images

An attacking midfielder

When George Honeyman was sold in the summer many expected Elliot Embleton to step up in his place. Unfortunately for the former England under-20 international, injuries have plagued his involvement in the team.

Sunderland lack a creative spark, a player who can unlock a defence and provide consistent chances for our strikers. Our build-up play this season has been too slow, teams can easily retain their shape and force us to pass sideways. To counter this we need more creativity and energy in our midfield.

Parkinson’s midfield options are currently too similar. The likes of Power, Leadbitter and McGeouch sit deep and are conservative, severely lacking end-product going forward. Luke O’Nien is our best assister this year, a criminal statistic when you consider he has spent half of his time playing at right-back.

The man every Sunderland fan wanted to see signed this summer was Peterborough talisman Marcus Maddison. North-East born, Maddison frequently teases his Sunderland allegiances on social media, but unfortunately his £2.5m release clause appears to deter any buyers. Maddison’s goals and assists contribution this season has been incredible. With him being down to the last six months of his contract, I wonder if Peterborough will take a lower offer instead of risking him leaving on a Bosman?

Forget potential options - just sign the man who is the perfect fit!

Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - ABAX Stadium
Maddison has been on fire for Peterborough so far this season scoring nine goals, as well as assisting six.
Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

A direct winger with pace

You could argue we already have this type of player in Duncan Watmore, but unfortunately his inconsistency combined with his injury history leaves him regarded as an unreliable figure.

Parkinson has highlighted the fatal flaw in Sunderland’s squad that we lack pace and power. This can be seen significantly out wide, since Lynden Gooch has been missing with injury Sunderland have looked a lost cause on the flanks.

We could benefit from a wide man who takes people on 1 v 1, a player with rapid pace who can get us up the pitch with urgency. It comes back to the priority of signing players who will make things happen, players who will get the fans off their seats.

You cannot say that McGeady and Maguire do not have technical ability, but we need to have different options for different scenarios in matches. Frustratingly Joel Asoro fits the description perfectly - if only he had made playing first-team football his priority!

Potential options: Thibaud Verlinden (Stoke), Wes Burns (Fleetwood), Tarique Fosu (Oxford)

Oxford United v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One
Fosu put Oxford in front against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on the opening day of the season.
Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

An offensive right back

The irony of Sunderland needing a new right-back is that recently-released Donald Love is performing well week in, week out for Shrewsbury this season after an injury plagued three years on Wearside - perhaps he wasn’t as bad as we all thought after all.

Releasing both Love and Adam Matthews was seen as necessary in order to bring down the wage bill, but it has left us with Luke O’Nien who is far superior in midfield and the largely underwhelming Conor McLaughlin.

Signed from Millwall in the summer, the Northern Ireland international has been average at best, frequently finding himself being substituted when Sunderland need to push forward.

If we want to push for promotion, Sunderland need offensive full backs who can whip crosses in and provide an overlapping option. McLaughlin was originally brought in to play right centre-back in Jack Ross’ 3-4-2-1 system, at right-back in a four he has been highly ineffective.

Competition in this position is essential as McLaughlin is the only recognised right-back at the club. Rather than a more defensive full-back, Parkinson could benefit from a more offensive option capable of performing at both ends of the pitch.

Potential options: Nathan Byrne (Wigan), Stephen O’Donnell (Kilmarnock), Fankaty Dabo (Coventry)

Coventry City v Ipswich Town - Emirates FA Cup - Second Round - St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium
The 23-year-old was part of the Chelsea’s prestigious academy and enjoyed loan spells in Holland with Vitesse and Sparta Rotterdam.
Photo by Tim Goode/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

A centre-half partner for Willis

Lastly there is the predicament at centre-half - the nightmare position of the Donald era. Jack Baldwin, Glenn Loovens, Jimmy Dunne, Tom Flanagan, Alim Ozturk – all have struggled to perform for consistent periods.

The signing of Jordan Willis on a free transfer was a shrewd piece of business. He possesses clear quality, but it is evident he is being restricted by the inability of his defensive compatriots. Joel Lynch looked to potentially have solved this issue, but his dip in form and short-term contract leaves Parkinson likely to believe he needs another option.

Because of Willis’ excellent athletic ability, Sunderland would benefit from signing a more dominant centre-back to partner him – someone with excellent aerial ability and strength. League One is full of physical tough defenders which Sunderland lack, our team needs more height and physical presence.

Our failure to keep clean sheets this season is a serious issue that we must address. Buying a physical tough centre half to partner Willis, alongside competition at right-back would be a step in the right direction.

Potential options: Rob Dickie (Oxford), Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock), Jack Hobbs (Bolton)

UEFA European Qualifier - Scotland vs. San Marino
Findlay scored on his Scotland debut against San Marino in October.
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