The transfer window is often a stressful and tiresome time for clubs, with deals frequently tough to get over the line. This summer was no different for Sunderland and many will be pondering just how well-stocked the squad is for the challenges ahead.
The Black Cats came into the summer with a number of positions to strengthen.
One of which was the backup goalkeeper slot, following the decision to allow Alex Bass to join AFC Wimbledon on a season-long loan. The Wearsiders’ solution to this was Manchester United youngster Nathan Bishop, who has had plenty of loan experience in the EFL. Anthony Patterson of course remains the firm number one at the club, so it remains to be seen how much game time Bishop will get. The young prospect hardly inspired in his only appearance to date in the League Cup debacle against Crewe Alexandra; however the hope will be that his invaluable experience around a club like Manchester United and his various loan spells will mean that he can do a job between the sticks whenever he is called upon.
The defence was also another area of concern heading into the off season. Sunderland’s run to the playoffs and indeed their efforts in them were badly hampered by injuries to key defenders, particularly in the center half position. This has been mostly addressed during the summer with two centre backs joining the club early in the window.
Youngsters Nectar Triantis and Jenson Seelt were the players recruited to fill the void. Neither has seen any kind of significant game time since their arrival on Wearside, with Triantis limited to just the League Cup defeat to Crewe and Seelt struggling with an injury picked up prior to his arrival. Both did find themselves on the bench for Saturday’s drubbing of Southampton and that hopefully suggests they are both fit and raring to go if and when they are called upon.
Both players provide a decent level of height, which is an area that Sunderland were badly exposed in during the conclusion of last season. The only other arrival in the defense was on deadline day when young full back Timothee Pembele joined from PSG to replace Lynden Gooch, who was allowed to join Stoke City.
The only other significant departure saw veteran Danny Batth make the switch to Norwich City, a move that wasn’t well received within the fan base, with many feeling his experience would have been more useful than the raw Triantis and Seelt.
The midfield wasn’t as much of an area of concern for the recruitment team. The club is well stocked on options in the center of the park and out wide, with many of the younger heads expected to really make their mark during the current season, although the loss of last season’s shining light Amad Diallo was undoubtedly a hole in the midfield that needed filling. The club decided to act quickly in order to try to fill this obvious gap, bringing in Birmingham City’s Jobe Bellingham and free agent Bradley Dack.
The pair have made excellent starts to their Sunderland careers, both playing decisive roles in the Black Cats two league wins so far. Another midfielder was added on deadline day too, with young French talent Adil Aouchiche joining from Ligue 1 club Lorient.
The midfield looks very strong for Sunderland at this moment in time, with the best individual performances of the season so far coming from this area in the shapes of Pierre Ekwah, Dan Neil and Bradley Dack, etc.
Without doubt the biggest concern over the summer was the situation up top.
The Wearsiders were forced to play the vast majority of last season with only a single striker available, due to two lengthy injuries to talisman Ross Stewart and the recalling of on-loan star Ellis Simms. To the club’s credit they made early moves to secure reinforcements, with young strikers Luis Hemir and Eliezer Mayenda arriving.
However, Hemir has struggled to adapt to the physicality of the English league after a promising pre-season and Mayenda picked up a hamstring injury in his very first training session, which continues to rule him out. This - along with the decision to finally sell Ross Stewart to Championship rivals Southampton on deadline day - left the club scrambling to bring in further recruits.
For a while, it looked as though the situation all Sunderland fans dreaded would become a reality, however two new forwards did finally arrive before the deadline. Chelsea youngster Mason Burstow was first to arrive, joining on a season long loan and bringing recent Premier League experience to boot. The second was long time target Nazariy Rusyn, who the Wearsiders had seemingly been in negotiations for all summer. The Ukraine Under-21 international joins with a fine record within his domestic league, racking up 61 goals in 85 appearances over a six season period.
Ultimately, Sunderland ended up with four strikers on the books by 11pm on Friday, a luxury they haven’t enjoyed for quite some time and a return that represents a more than acceptable transfer window.
It appears as though numbers-wise Sunderland are well set for what the upcoming campaign will throw at them, and based on recent performances it seems as though the team is starting to really hit their stride.
Experience will again be the big question with the summer recruits mostly all bought with the future in mind - with the exception of Dack and maybe Rusyn.
However, Sunderland have ended the window with a very decent amount of assets at their disposal and will be hoping to kick on from here.