Analysis - Sunderland can balance the books with more transfers out

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It would be an enormous act of self-harm for Ellis Short to tighten the purse strings now, just as Sunderland’s squad is beginning to improve.

Last week’s double capture of Jeremain Lens and Younes Kaboul has improved the mood of both players and supporters, and on paper, should boost the calibre of this perennially struggling Sunderland side.

Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.

Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.

Lens clearly has plenty of pedigree after 30-odd caps for Holland and provides the injection of pace which it feels like Sunderland’s attack has lacked since the beginning of time.

Meanwhile, Kaboul, if fit (and the ‘if’ is the big question with him) is a proven Premier League performer with a combination of power, size and pace which Dick Advocaat was looking for as he overhauled Sunderland’s central defence.

But more is needed.

There’s still not a lot of guile in that Sunderland midfield, while there are question marks over the threat posed by any of the four strikers available to Advocaat after last season’s paltry goal tally.

Advocaat and Lee Congerton could boost the transfer kitty themselves, if a few more players considered surplus to requirements are moved on

Short will surely make a few more quid available, while, of course, Sunderland still have the domestic loan market to use, which is likely to come into play towards the end of the window.

But don’t forget either that Advocaat and Lee Congerton could boost the transfer kitty themselves, if a few more players considered surplus to requirements are moved on.

The departures have so far only been modest this summer; El Hadji-Ba unsurprisingly shipped out on a permanent deal, and Santiago Vergini heading to La Liga after Advocaat clearly didn’t fancy the Argentine international.

Congerton will hope to arrange exits for Valentin Roberge and Charis Mavrias, who have remained behind in the North East training with the Under-21s in a limbo existence.

Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.

Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.

Neither are going to raise a king’s ransom, but there are saleable commodities in Sunderland’s ranks.

Will Buckley and Liam Bridcutt still need to convince that they can make the grade in the Premier League, but they have thrived at Championship levels, where some suitors will surely be contemplating the pair as possibilities.

Tellingly, neither featured from the bench against Club de Futbol Pachuba on Saturday morning after they each only started once during Advocaat’s nine game tenure at the end of last season.

If Sunderland get a £1million-plus apiece, then it might have to be considered a prudent financial loss on the £2.5m which was invested in each of them to reunite them with ex-Brighton boss Gus Poyet.

Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.

Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.

But if Sunderland are going to make save some real money though, it might have to come by offloading one of their four frontmen.

It’s difficult to argue against Sunderland needing a new striker.

But it’s equally tough to imagine having five central strikers for the one position in a 4-3-3.

Connor Wickham is the only real member of the quartet who has the versatility to play in a wider role and are Sunderland genuinely going to sell the £8m frontman after he only penned a new contract in December?

Congerton is thought to rate Wickham very highly, while Advocaat can obviously see the potential there, even if you get the impression that he wants to constantly give the 21-year-old a kick up the backside.

Likewise, Jermain Defoe is unlikely to be offloaded just six months into his Sunderland career, particularly as his four goals last season contributed significantly to the club’s eventual survival.

Defoe has made it crystal clear that he doesn’t want to play on the left wing though and he will hope that his two outings there in California were simply due to the numbers available to Advocaat, prior to the arrival of Jeremain Lens here in Toronto.

The England striker needs to be down the middle. Nowhere else.

That leaves Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham, by far the most vulnerable of the quartet and each boasting just 12 months left on their Sunderland contracts.

Fletcher – the more saleable asset – is a better footballer and a better finisher, but too often either disappears or gets outmuscled.

By contrast, Graham offers enormous amounts of physicality and effort, which reaped such rewards during his fairytale return to first-team favour at Sunderland late last season, but the ex-Swansea man doesn’t have the same quality of touch.

Surely one of the strikers has to go though, even if it depends on which one generates any concrete interest.

Short has to makes finances forthcoming if he wants to fulfil his ambition of Premier League stability.

But it wouldn’t do any harm to top up the transfer kitty if it proves to be possible.