Gus Poyet has voiced concerns over our current squad’s ability to ensure Premier League survival and reports suggest that as many as five new players could arrive during the January transfer window. Yes, transfer malarkey has started already and this summer’s busy antics aren’t about to let up. The number of players is not exactly surprising, but it speaks volumes when coupled with Poyet’s reluctance to play most of our summer recruits.
It is worth pointing out that Sunderland have overhauled more than once already this campaign. The well documented fourteen players signed to fit Paolo Di Canio’s system is one, the other is complete change in footballing philosophy stemming from the appointment of Poyet. With that in mind, it seems quite logical that players signed for Di Canio do not fit in with Poyet. This highlights how expensive the PDC gamble was, although perhaps worth it in the long run given our Premier League survival was ensured under the Italian. So what should we expect in January?
Despite our side seeming to adapt well to the new style of play, there is no doubt we still have a few square pegs in round holes. The primary problem for Poyet will almost certainly be at full back and midfield. Although he has already expressed his admiration of Phil Bardsley, he has also expressed his desire to play everyone in their favoured position – which of course for Bardsley is right back, not left back. Ondrej Celustka is only on loan until the end of the season and, although seems fairly solid, doesn’t strike me as completely competent as the all action wing back-sort-of role Poyet likes his full backs to perform. He doesn’t offer anything going forward, which is a major part of Poyet’s model. Andrea Dossena, apart from being plain useless, was only given a yearlong deal and seems almost certain to leave in the summer.
Bardsley is in the last year of his contract; however it is increasingly likely that will be extended should the player wish to stay. That disappoints me to be honest. Not because I think he is an overly poor player (although I wouldn’t consider him a good one either), or even his off-the-field actions, but because he is on far too much money. The figure reported of £32k a week, if true, is just ridiculous given what we get. So unless he takes a paycut, I’d rather see him leave. Even if he does stay, we need three full backs and you would imagine at least one left back will be purchased in January.
The other area which will be a concern Poyet is our central midfield. As alluded to earlier, he wants to play players in their correct positions, yet Seb Larsson was in midfield against Manchester City at the expense of natural (I use that term loosely) central player Craig Gardner. There are rumours around Gardner’s potential departure and at a calculated guess it suggests he is not part of the long term plan. Neither is David Vaughan, who has already left the club on loan. That leaves us with Jack Colback, Lee Cattermole and Ki Sung-Yeung. One is in the last year of his contract, another of which struggles to make 20 games a season and the other is on loan. I expect at least two central midfielders to join us on Wearside in January, one of which seems destined to be Brighton midfield Liam Bridcutt.
That’s three, however Poyet said five. Next, given his reluctance to even bench Modibo Diakite and his desire to play the hapless Carlos Cuellar (also in the last year of his contract) over Valentin Roberge, not to mention Wes Brown’s unreliability due to his fitness concerns – a centre back could well be part of this recruitment. That is of course unless one or both of Roberge and Diakite manage to persuade Poyet they are up to his standards. I am a little surprised at the lack of faith the Uruguayan has in Roberge - he seems the perfect fit.
Finally, given Connor Wickham’s loan departure and further rumours circulating about Ji Dong-Won’s potential exit - a striker could well be on the horizon given that we would only have three which includes the on loan Fabio Borini. You could also argue that a winger may well be in our sights when you consider we are not blessed with options beyond Adam Johnson, Emanuele Giaccherini and Seb Larsson other than younger players
Whatever is to happen in January I feel it is imperative that the club employs a more ‘give and take’ approach to this whole Director of Football situation. Given Di Canio’s comments, he had virtually no say on the individuals who were signed in the summer which has had expensive consequences (bearing in mind even players arriving on a free tend to command a high signing on fee). Give a little power back to Poyet, if he wants Bridcutt – don’t go and sign some random player from a different nation who may resemble him in some way. Sign Bridcutt.
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