I think this is the most obvious position that needs to be strengthened, and whilst I have no idea how close to a return Ross Stewart actually is, even when he’s fit, we need another body up top.
I’d be surprised if we rush, especially since we did so well without a striker last season, but we’ve got to replace the goals we lost from the departures of Amad and Ellis Simms last season (albeit at different points).
Speaking of Amad, his presence will be missed and whilst I know people are hoping for his return, we can’t depend completely on that happening.
As I said before, he scored a lot of goals and he’ll leave a giant hole on our right hand side that needs to be filled.
I have great hopes for Jewison Bennette and Isaac Lihadji but it would be a stretch to expect either to be able to replace a player of that quality, so adding numbers in that position is crucially important.
I’m very happy with Dan Neil and Pierre Ekwah but we’ve lost Edouard Michut and Corry Evans may not even return from injury this year.
Another physical presence is needed and I suspect that there’s no smoke without fire when it comes to the Neeskens Kebano link.
I’d be supportive of signing an older player with Championship and Premier League experience, particularly in that defensive midfield role in front of the two centre halves.
Malc Dugdale says…
Attack, attack, attack!
As mentioned by Gav, we really need to sort out our attacking options.
If Ross Stewart signs a new contract, we need more in the Amad-shaped hole than we do in the number nine slot.
If we receive an offer for Stewart that we can’t decline, we need two or perhaps even three forward players to push on next season.
We did well to compensate for our injury woes last season, but we had the element of surprise that we won’t have next season, and teams will know more about how to nullify us.
This has to be priority 1A and there are no excuses for Kristjaan Speakman and company.
I’d like to see us bring in decent cover for Trai Hume, who was a contender for player of the season, and the same applies to Niall Huggins, as he’s still yet to prove that he has the resilience to play for us at this level. He looked good during his cameos but we need depth at full back.
I appreciate that we’re an attack-focused team and that we do use wingbacks quite often, but having a combination of defensive shapes including good full backs who can really defend at this level will help us to vary our approach when needed.
A few more draws converted into wins and we can be right back in the mix.
An experienced goalkeeper
I’d like to see an experienced backup for Anthony Patterson arrive, ideally someone who can help coach the lad in his distribution and command of his penalty area.
He’s a great goalkeeper who’s developing at an alarming rate but we can’t expect him to be fit for another full season, and outgoings have reduced our second goalkeeper options.
A seasoned number two who’s capable and maybe working on his coaching badges for when he retires might work.
We’re no longer the club who signs retirement home wannabes but goalkeepers are a different breed, so I’d welcome an experienced second stopper to bring on the aspects of Patterson that need fine tuning, and to rest him when we need to.
Matthew Crichton says…
With a definite date on Ross Stewart’s return still up in the air, I think Sunderland need to overcompensate in the transfer window to avoid a similar situation to last season.
The reported signing of Luís Semedo would be welcomed, given the level of trust in Speakman and Stuart Harvey’s recruitment so far, but if he’s to come in as our starting forward, I think we also could benefit from another to provide cover and/or competition.
I acknowledge that it’s difficult to recruit someone who’d be happy to be third choice behind Stewart and Semedo, especially given our model and wage cap, so perhaps the best solution may be to sign a forward for our U23s who’ll be their starting striker with the aim of being good enough to feature on the first team bench or to offer cover for injuries.
I found it disappointing last season that no reserve forwards were deemed good enough to step up, as for me the best U23 players should at least be in a position to cover during an injury crisis, even off the bench. This is something that would be great to address.
An Amad replacement
Probably the most difficult piece of recruitment this summer will be replacing the level of talent that Amad possessed.
Whether it be playing wide or as a ten, he was a class above last season and I think the best chance we have of replacing him will be within the loan market.
Sunderland don’t pay high transfer fees, especially not the £20 million upfront fee that Manchester United paid for Amad, so I think a similar young talent in desperate need of regular minutes will be the best route to take.
With the end of season form of Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, you’d expect them to be Tony Mowbray’s current first choices, but with Alex Pritchard’s injury issues and struggles to complete regular ninety minutes, the number ten spot needs to be filled.
An experienced goalkeeper to help and push Anthony Patterson
As I mentioned recently, I think Alex Bass is too young to settle as our second choice goalkeeper and I believe the club also paid a fee for him, so it would be great to see him loaned out to see what level he’s at.
It’s very clear that Anthony Patterson is first choice, a position he thoroughly deserves, so with that in mind, I think it would be great to recruit a more experienced number two who can help him develop or be capable of deputising when needed.
Throughout last season, it always made me nervous that we were an injury away from having a League Two standard goalkeeper between the sticks, so I think stocking up in this department would be the sensible approach to take.