Sunderland have struggled to stay clear of relegation in recent seasons, despite having a number of managers and plenty of money being spent on new signings. There have been plenty of false dawns under Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Paulo di Canio and Gus Poyet, and the time has come now for the club to have some stability. Dick Advocaat has been kept on for at least another season and there were signs last season that he could develop the Black Cats into a solid Premier League side. The decisions made by the board at Sunderland have been questionable in recent years, yet the decision to keep Advocaat on was a masterstroke.
Last season, Advocaat took charge of the final 9 matches, managed to pick up 12 points, which secured their Premier League status. It was a huge risk making the managerial change, especially considering Advocaat had no experience in England, but his experience and ability to organise a side was the main reason that Sunderland survived. It was crucial that they managed to keep the Dutchman to build on the platform he built over his short spell in charge last season. The club is now in safe hands and should be able to do a lot better with a whole season under Advocaat.
In the last few weeks, they have started their work on the squad which has showed early promise, but they are lacking the exciting signings that other clubs have made around them. Newcastle have managed to sign Georginio Wijnaldum and Crystal Palace have signed Yohan Cabaye. These are exciting signings and represent the ambition of both clubs as the players mentioned have the quality to play in the Champions League. However, Sunderland haven’t done similar business and the morale is starting to drop among Black Cats supporters, who were in good spirits after Advocaat was announced as staying.
Last season, the club had problems with the quality in some areas, especially in terms of creativity and goal scoring. This needs to be addressed in the coming weeks. Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher both scored five goals last season, and were joint top scorers in the league for the club. This isn’t good enough for the Premier League and the signing of Jermain Defoe was designed to help on this front. The forward scored four times, which was a decent return for half a season, but he needs to be better this season and try to score more than ten. The club have also been linked with Jermain Lens, who can play up front or on the left wing. He would add creativity and dynamism in the final third.
A key piece of business completed in the window was Lee Cattermole signing a new deal. He is the heartbeat of the Sunderland side, and adds a lot of quality in the middle of the park with his battling qualities. If he wasn’t so unfashionable, he would be closer to the England set up, but he is still key to Sunderland.
Sunderland are one of the sides many think will be competing in the bottom half of the table against relegation. However they have some good players in their squad, and if they make three or four quality additions before the window closes, they will have a great chance of having a successful season. Dick Advocaat is an excellent organiser of teams and he will make Sunderland difficult to beat as he showed in his opening nine games as manager. The side’s performance against Newcastle to beat their North-East rivals at the Stadium of Light was incredible and showed the battling spirit that resides in the squad. If Advocaat can make them solid at the back and gets the right players to add some quality in the final third, then Sunderland could shock a lot of people this season.