If the new recruitment model that was first put in place last summer can be fine-tuned during this transfer window, it’s a safe bet that Sunderland will have a squad that can compete strongly in the move. sending off against Coventry on July 31. .
The signing last Thursday of Daniel Ballard – a player who certainly fits the mold of the youngster, promising with plenty of room for improvement, was undoubtedly a step forward as we look to strengthen our squad ahead of the new season.
Seemingly blessed with impressive leadership credentials as a former Arsenal youth team skipper, as well as physicality and quality on the ball, the Northern Ireland international ticks a host of boxes, and it will be interesting to see how quickly and effectively it integrates.
Defensively, we’re slowly moving towards a position of real strength, but with another left-back and another centre-back on many people’s target list, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see reinforcements arriving in the coming weeks. It may also be tempting to think of Trai Hume and Niall Huggins as “like new signings”, but patience will be key as they continue their comebacks.
So, with the defense starting to take shape, what about Sunderland’s current midfield options?
At the moment we’re certainly not threadbare in the middle of the park, with Corry Evans, Jay Matete, Carl Winchester, Luke O’Nien and Dan Neil all vying for the starting spots, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of luck. others quality is not required, which it certainly is.
If we are to assume that Evans, as club captain and inspirational figure in the latter part of last season, will retain his place in the starting XI, the question of who associates him with is an interesting one. O’Nien’s versatility and willingness to insert himself where needed is well known, but will Alex Neil be looking to use him in a different role this season?
Matete, meanwhile, remains something of an unknown quantity, which might seem odd considering he’s been at the club since January, but in this time he’s rarely been extended in the squad and has had to in large gone to try and impress via brief cameos from the bench, during which he often looked decent but also quite reckless and error-prone.
Much speculation has also surrounded Dan Neil’s future, on the oft-discussed basis that Alex Neil “doesn’t like him”, as exemplified by the fact that he barely featured in the late-season run. Sunderland’s season and successful playoff campaign.
To say the least, it was in stark contrast to his early season form, during which he apparently embraced first-team football with ease, couldn’t do much and received rave reviews every week.
While it was disappointing to see Neil play a minimal role in our promotion (which I was often critical of, and wrongly, given the end result), it was true that he often looked jaded during the winter and early spring, as Lee Johnson became increasingly dependent on him.
To that end, perhaps his current boss has simply decided to remove him from the firing line to ensure his development isn’t compromised.
Despite the somewhat pessimistic outlook for his current status, I remain convinced that not only does Neil have a future at the club, but that he will play a key role in the Championship campaign and continue to demonstrate why he is such a highly rated youngster. footballer.
In a league where plays are often more extended and time on the ball more abundant, his attributes could be put to full use, and I truly believe the boss will just manage him smarter and make sure he doesn’t get burned out. Consequently. to be overjoyed.
In terms of midfield additions, the rumor mill has always linked us to AFC Wimbledon’s Jack Rudoni, a potent box-to-box presence who has contributed a handy amount of goals and assists all season. last, and for whom Wimbledon should stand for a record transfer fee.
Assuming we can persuade him to swap Plow Lane for the Stadium of Light, Rudoni would certainly give us some much-needed physicality down the middle, as well as a goalscoring threat as well.
During his time here, Alex Neil has regularly demonstrated his willingness to rotate the starting XI, depending on the challenge posed by the opposition. If Kristjaan Speakman and the recruitment team can continue with their policy of conducting transfer business in a quietly efficient manner and targeting players to fit into the current structure, the red and white engine room should be able to provide a solid platform for our attackers. the championship.