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Summer Scouting: A new striker is on Sunderland’s shopping list, who could Phil Parkinson bring in?

Sunderland need a new striker to complement what they already have. Who should Phil Parkinson target?

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Anyone who has watched Sunderland for the last 18 months knows that they're in dire need for a new centre forward.

Will Grigg is neither the target man Phil Parkinson needs, nor the goalscorers he has been at his previous clubs. Charlie Wyke looks to be a good fit on paper, but lacks the aggression to be a real success as the lone forward.

The signing of the versatile Aiden O'Brien is probably an improvement on Grigg and Wyke, but if Sunderland really are targeting promotion they're going to need at least two players they can count on to lead the line.


As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the key components of being a target man which Charlie Wyke lacks is aggression.

Given that the main job of a target man in Sunderland's team is to win challenges against opposition defenders, this is a significant problem.

The first graph below rates strikers within Sunderland's scouting range on their ability to win offensive duels - for example a 50/50 against a defender. A good target man will appear in the top right of this graph, with a large number of successful offensive duels completed.

Since most offensive duels are made up of ground duels, it makes sense to see fast players such as Kazenga LuaLua and Siriki Dembele high up in the rankings for offensive duels - two players who aren't considered target men.

So, whilst being strong in offensive duels doesn't mean a striker is a target man, forwards who are also strong at winning aerial duels can be considered good candidates for the role.

As is the case with the previous graph, players in the top right quadrent should be of interest to Sunderland.

This gives a shortlist of 21 players who are better than average at winning both offensive and defensive duels; players not strong in both of these areas can be ruled out of leading the line for a Phil Parkinson team.

Chance Creation

If last season can be seen as a template for the role of Phil Parkinson's forwards, the creative ability of the central striker is likely to be more important than their goalscoring, with the two attacking midfielders providing the biggest goal threat.

If the two attacking midfielders are to provide a goal threat, the central striker is required to help create their chances, and the graph below shows the key passes and expected assists.

Players such as Lee Griffiths who appear on the far right of the graph are very effective at creating chances for their team mates, however the number of players from the 21 man shortlist who were aggressive enough to play for Sunderland and also appear in the top right quadrent of this graph is limited to just five players: Gnanduillet, Toney, Evans, Brown and Nisbet.


Even though it is of lesser important for Phil Parkinson's strikers, every successful side needs someone at the top end of the pitch who is capable of putting the ball in the back of the net when a chance presents itself.

The first graph roughly assesses a striker's attacking movement, and the quality of the chances which they have. Players with both a high expected goals and a large number of shots on target are given a lot of good chances to score each game and are more likely to score more as a result.

As the graph below shows, Alfredo Morelos is expected to score 0.75 goals per game but this is largely down to him also having the highest number of shots per game. In terms of quality of chances, Walsall's Adebayo is expected to score once every four shots, as is West Brom's Charlie Austin.

Perhaps what has been seriously lacking from Charlie Wyke in a Sunderland shirt is not necessarily a lack of chances - although this has been a factor in his poor record - but just his inability to score at a reasonable rate when he is presented with them.

The table below assesses the players' finishing abilities by looking at the extent to which they outperformed their expected goals. For reference, Grigg and Wyke scored last, with a score of -0.24 (an "average" striker would score an extra goal every 4 games).

The top man on the list needs no introduction, and Jermain Defoe's 0.42 over performance would be chalked down as an anomaly if he wasn't one of the best finishers in the game. When it comes to poachers, few are better than the former Sunderland striker.

Transfer Targets

The main standout when looking for Sunderland's next striker is Blackpool marksman Armand Gnanduillet. The French striker is above average for all metrics and his height and atleticism makes him the perfect players to lead the line in Phil Parkinson's side. He scored 15 goals last team and if he was to repeat that feat in Red and White - and able to add some assists to his game - Sunderland would stand a very good chance of winning promotion next season.

If Sunderland were to look for more of a consistent goalscorers than Gnanduillet, whose main strength lies in winning challenges against the opposition, they should turn to Jonson Clarke-Harris who is certain to leave Bristol Rovers should he not sign a contract extension. He doesn't create as many chances for team mates as Gnanduillet, but he is better at running with the ball and looks to be a slightly better finishers than the Blackpool striker.

Finally, if Sunderland are forced to look for slightly less of an upgrade then AFC Wimbledon's Joe Pigott would be a striker's whose profile fits with Parkinson's style of play. He is strong at winning challenges against opposition defenders - especially aerial duels - and whilst he slight underperforms his xG, with a score of -0.04 he would still be a significant improvement on Grigg and Wyke in this department.

All Stats from Wyscout

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