Yesterday, rumours swirled on Walsall fansite, UTS, that central midfielder George Dobson was set to sign for Sunderland over the course of the next few days.
The former West Ham youngster was captain of Walsall for the majority of last season as they were relegated to League Two; however, he is widely regarded as being a talented player with a bright future, and this deal could well be a positive bit of business for Sunderland.
Stated to stand at a little over six feet tall, Dobson could be the controlling, physical presence Sunderland have cried out for in recent times. Furthermore, being only twenty-one years of age, Dobson’s signing could well signal a change in approach to Sunderland’s approach as a club - especially if some of Sunderland’s other youngsters are promoted into senior roles this season.
It is worth noting that all three of Sunderland’s signings so far this summer have been six feet tall or more - perhaps an indication that Jack Ross has identified our lack of physicality as an issue that needs to be fixed.
However, with the vast majority of Sunderland’s budget likely to be spent on an imposing central defender to further add some further physicality and athleticism to the side as well as an attacking midfielder to provide some much needed craft and guile, Sunderland will also likely look within in order to promote several youngsters into the first team squad.
Denver Hume, Ethan Robson, Elliott Embleton, Bali Mumba and Benji Kimpioka are all potentially capable of making the step up into first team football this season. As such, this summer could very well be a case of decreasing the average age of the side whilst simultaneously increasing the average height.
Should Sunderland acquire another commanding central defender, then Jack Ross might well have a physically imposing side to utilize this season. Incorporating several youngsters into the squad will also be a welcome bonus.
Denver Hume could well be Sunderland’s first choice left-back should Bryan Oviedo leave the club as expected this summer. The pacey full-back was impressive in spells last season; his tenacity and willingness to press forward could be vital to Ross’ side this season - especially when you consider he had just as many assists as Reece James (2) despite playing a third as many games.
Furthermore, it has been suggested that the coaching staff rate Ethan Robson very highly, and this season could well be his breakout campaign if he can stay fit. The youngster moves the ball well and did look to be more adventurous on the ball than other central midfielders last season, although injury prematurely ended his chances of securing first team football. A loan move to Dundee will have helped him develop ahead of this season.
Capable of playing out wide or in behind the striker(s), Elliot Embleton will be determined to work his way into Ross’ plans, and he well may be given a chance if he signs a new deal with the club. Impressive during his loan spell at Grimsby last season, Embleton will have to fight off competition from the likes of McGeady, Maguire, Gooch, Watmore, and Honeyman in order to secure a role in Ross’ side. He will need a good pre-season to ensure he stands a chance.
This year may be too soon for Bali Mumba, who has impressed in his first-team outings. The Academy product is very tidy in possession and harasses well in the middle of the park; he will need to oust the likes of Power, Leadbitter, O’Nien, Robson, and potentially Dobson if he is to find a role in Ross’ plans. Fantastic back up if needed, though, and he will be keen to impress.
Benji Kimpioka is another who still hasn’t signed a new contract; however, he stands a real chance at getting first team minutes this season if the club do not bring in reinforcements up front. Tall, fast, and capable of causing defenders trouble with his direct nature, Kimpioka could well be in with a chance should Grigg or Wyke show lack of form or succumb to injury.
The club still have over three weeks to conclude their summer business, but last season showed that an inflated squad does not necessarily equate to success.
Sunderland have a group of young players more than capable of playing at this level, but need their manager to place faith in their abilities. Ross will need to obviously balance the squad in terms of experience, quality, and youth, but Sunderland could well have an opportunity to fill their squad from within.
Quality signings are still needed, but perhaps Ross might view his talented group of youngsters as more than capable of adding to his side.