Solidity is a term that can be attributed to Martin O’Neill's sides, and as the old saying goes, ‘it all starts from the back’. Related to this is the idea of the spine of the team.
Lee Cattermole is a player who I evidently do not hold in as high regard as his manager. I admire his tenacity and work rate, however I feel that he is too lightweight and does not have that physical presence that is missing from Sunderland’s midfield.
His disciplinary record causes a few raised eyebrows and raises questions about the captain’s temperament. For me, this is an area that O’Neill may need to strengthen.
Vaughan and Gardner are two good footballing players, but Vaughan may not be the most mobile of midfielders, both can make defence splitting passes and would be greatly helped by someone to nick the ball from the opposition for them.
QPR will no doubt benefit from the signing of Park Ji Sung who will offer this ball winning ability to a team that wants to play football. However, Joey Barton is someone who many at the Stadium of Light will want to steer clear of as his departure from Loftus Road seems ever likely.
Leon Osman, who I am aware would most probably not leave Everton for Sunderland, is a player who has a phenomenal work rate and would suit the way Sunderland play.
I mentioned earlier Sunderland’s need for a physical presence in centre midfield. Arsenal’s Diaby may wish to have a fresh start, or a loan move away from the Emirates to regain the form that had a few European clubs such as Juventus after his services.
Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone may wish to leave White Hart Lane if AVB does not give him game time, and he certainly carries with him that much needed strength and power along with a phenomenally powerful strike on him. Steven N'Zonzi is a player linked who could fit the bill.
An Owen Hargreaves, certainly not the player he was back in 2006, may still be able to do a job in centre midfield whilst offering added quality on the ball, if he could stay fit, but it would be a gamble.
Another significant area I feel that Sunderland need to address is that of left back. Kieran Richardson is wasted at left back. His attacking talent outweighs his defensive abilities, and for me, he would be more beneficial for Sunderland attacking opposition defences on the wing and whipping balls into the box for his strikers to get on to, or even playing as a striker himself.
It could be argued that Richardson is suffering from Sunderland’s several possible options on the left wing with Larsson and McClean able to play there too. Relegated Wolves’ Stephen Ward could be a possible option at left back with his Premier League and international experience.
Fulham’s John Arne Riise is a player I still rate highly, still very pacey, offers a great attacking threat bombing up the wing and has great delivery.
Right winger, Matt Jarvis, of Wolves too, is a target for many Premier League clubs, he would be a good addition for Sunderland but with an asking price of around £10 million, is a move that is unlikely to happen for them.
Sunderland certainly need to bolster their striking options. Wolves’ Steven Fletcher is a quality striker, who again, would be wanted by Premiership sides and would demand a large transfer fee.
With Michael Owen a free agent, the chance to play for Martin O’Neill and get game time could be an attractive proposition for the former England striker, who knows? However, Sunderland do need to strengthen up front.
In central defence Turner, Bramble, O’Shea and Brown are certainly error prone. Birmingham’s Curtis Davies with his aerial ability and composure on the ball would add quality to the back four, and Bolton’s David Wheater has proven Premier League experience and both players would add competition for places.
So, O’Neill needs to strengthen his squad and take the shackles off Richardson. More striking options are needed, and more competition for places in central defence will benefit the team. I have doubts about Lee Cattermole’s temperament and how effective he is in central midfield, but I hope he proves me wrong.
With O’Neill at the helm is a Europa League spot a realistic ambition for Sunderland? With the right additions and a bit of luck, I reckon so. We shall see!
image: © Ronnie Macdonald