Wingers & Wide-men
In: One wide-man who has raw pace!
Out: Lewis Morgan (loan)
Potentially Leaving: Aiden McGeady
I don’t foresee that there’ll be much change to Sunderland’s wide options, and instead an understanding that we need some variety should we choose to recruit anyone.
Despite having a poor season, Lynden Gooch deserves another shot in this team but has to start proving exactly why he was deemed worthy of a new contract next season.
Duncan Watmore hasn’t been fit all season and he just needs to prove himself again to both the supporters and the manager, who has shown tremendous faith in him over the last twelve months or so. Duncan can be an asset to our side but only if he still have the capacity to improve his game, a process which has been undoubtedly halted whenever he’s suffered from a bad, long-term injury.
Chris Maguire has had a fantastic season and is someone who we must keep around as he offers this side so much both in terms of ability and mentality.
And, with Aiden McGeady, we just have to hope and pray that the club will shoulder his wage packet and keep him at the club. He’s been our most important player for most of the season and is a vital cog in what makes us tick.
We need some variety though, as other than Watmore we have nobody that gives the side direct running and raw speed from wide positions. Recruiting someone who has pace in abundance but also a trick in their step could be key next season, particularly since our attack has struggled to create for our forwards in the second half of the campaign.
In: Bulldozer of a central midfielder & a proper number 10!
Potentially Leaving: Dylan McGeouch, Lee Cattermole
I sound like a broken record here but the issues that plague Sunderland’s central midfield are the exact same ones that hamper just about every other area of the squad bar in goal - we lack variety and that is ultimately where we’ve fallen down in this position this season.
I’m a massive fan of Dylan McGeouch. I rate him as the best central midfielder in the squad and it’s genuinely beyond me how he’s not had a greater role in the side and is seemingly unfancied by Jack Ross, and if we end up losing him as a result then I’ll be hugely disappointed.
Grant Leadbitter hasn’t been great since he returned to the club but he’s definitely good enough to play regularly at this level and might benefit from having a McGeouch or another player alongside him who can break out from midfield and drive with the ball at their feet.
Max Power has been wholly unimpressive but is here to stay and Jack Ross is clearly a huge fan of what he offers the side, while it’s unclear whether or not Lee Cattermole will remain at the club beyond the summer as the club simply cannot afford to shoulder his colossal wage packet for much longer. My main suspicion is that there’s nobody out there who will offer Cattermole a package that suits him, and that he’ll be at Sunderland until the day his contract expires.
Then, the polarising Sunderland captain George Honeyman is unlikely to go anywhere at this stage and whether you like him or not, he’s considered an important part of the side by Jack Ross.
The Sunderland manager has to be ruthless, though. It’s clear that room needs to be made in order to bring in further reinforcements and I fear that McGeouch will leave the club in order to make way for someone else to arrive. The four men ahead of him are just clearly fancied more by Ross, and he’s good enough where the club will be able to move him on for a bit of money to a club north of the border.
Whatever happens, I feel promotion quite literally hinges on us signing two players in the mould of Joe Aribo and Elliott Lee, who brought entirely different attributes to their sides this season and undoubtedly made a difference in the promotion race.
Sunderland need a bulldozer who is quite literally head and shoulders above the rest of our players in central midfield, and a number ten who scores goals and grabs assists with regularity. Again, it sounds a lot easier than it actually is to identify these players but that’s why Sunderland have a well-paid scouting and recruitment team - they have to find players who fit the bill and can bring an extra dimension to Sunderland’s midfield next season.
In: Striker with pace!
Out: Kaz Sterling (loan)
Potentially Leaving: N/A
We invested heavily in signing Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg, and I’d be shocked if they weren’t both still at the club in the summer. Each man has suffered this season with injuries and, having settled in and with a pre-season under their belts, they’ll be tasked with spearheading Sunderland’s promotion charge back to the Championship.
Kaz Sterling returns back to Tottenham, but it’s a player with the attributes that he possesses that Sunderland fundamentally lack in their attack. Raw pace and the ability to play on the shoulder of the last man has been missing from Jack Ross’ weaponry and bringing on board someone who, like Sterling and Jerome Sinclair before him, has ‘something different’ about them in terms of what Grigg and Wyke lack could be key.
Someone with a bit of experience and a pedigree of scoring goals at this level would be preferable. Ivan Toney did a canny job at Peterborough this season and someone like him would be great, but ultimately it comes down to pounds and pennies and whether we can afford another major outlay on a centre forward in the coming window.