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Sunderland’s recruitment needs to embrace data-driven approach during these tough times

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During these tough times, Sunderland must look to adapt and grow in the face of an uncertain future. Adopting a modern outlook on recruitment must be the club’s new approach.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

As noted on the site several weeks ago, there’s a good chance that the EFL will introduce both a salary cap and limitations on squad sizes in an attempt at managing the lasting financial damage dealt by Covid-19 on clubs throughout English football.

Sunderland, of course, failed to secure promotion from League One this past season - the final season in which parachute monies were given to the club. Subsequently, as we look to the future, Sunderland find themselves at something of a crossroads: do they roll the dice on a short-term boost to get the club promoted? Or, do they implement a progressive strategy that has very clear aims and objectives?

Although the club are currently for sale, there is a strong argument to be made that Sunderland must adopt policies and best practices aimed at helping the club grow during a difficult time in English football - and our approach to recruitment must be at the top of that list.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

To begin, Sunderland need a clearly identifiable style of play. There’s no point trying to bring players into a side if they aren’t specifically targeted due to some inherent characteristic that makes them a positive signing for the club.

Presumably he has done so already, but Phil Parkinson’s immediate concern this summer would be to present his footballing vision to the club’s hierarchy and recruitment team in order that every key position within the club’s governing structure understands the manager’s tactical vision.

Simply put: how will Sunderland want to play the style of football required to win promotion?

Once the appropriate stakeholders understand the answer to that key question, then they can begin to analyse the current squad and discuss the positions that need strengthening.

For Sunderland this summer, the building of the team will be quite a job with so many players departing the club, but there are still key characters who will be important figures moving forward.

Jordan Willis, Luke O’Nien, Max Power, Chris Maguire, and Lynden Gooch are likely all going to be integral to the side this coming season. But how do they help Phil Parkinson implement the style of football he believes will win the vast majority of games? Subsequently, are other personnel required in order to help those players reach their own potential?

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Identifying the areas that need strengthening is the easy part of the process - finding said players has always been the most difficult part of football recruitment and this will prove even more difficult in a world so severely affected by a worldwide pandemic.

As such, Sunderland need to become more intelligent with the manner in which they identify players they want to recruit. This is the first season the club don’t have the luxury of parachute monies, which combined with potential salary caps and squad size limitations means the club are in a position where they perhaps cannot simply tempt higher calibre players with bigger wages.

One way in which the club should look to set itself apart, though, is by better utilising data analysis to find the players required in order to strengthen the team.

Back in January there was an article on this site that examined a proposal put together by data science, technical scouting, and recruitment service MRKT Insights. In a world where physical scouting cannot effectively occur, now should be the time in which Sunderland AFC modernise their approach to acquiring talent.

There is, of course, a cost to acquiring the services of companies like MRKT Insights, but that cost should be absorbed during a time when the club desperately need to make their recruitment strategies more effective.

Sunderland need to be progressive in their approach to finding talent with minimal investment and using data to earmark those players is something the club needs to adopt as soon as possible.

Sunderland v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

With Covid-19 set to leave a lasting malaise in English football, coy sides will use this uncertain period to better organise and rethink the methods previously used in the pursuit of success.

If the current owners want a club they can sell for a profit, the foundations of the operation need to be as efficient as possible - presently Sunderland’s approach to recruitment simply hasn’t brought the success many expected.

For Sunderland, the chance to rethink their approach to recruitment could be a silver lining during a difficult time.