Analysis - Sunderland MUST loosen the purse strings after opening day misery

Jeremain Lens in action against Leicester City. Picture by FRANK REID
Jeremain Lens in action against Leicester City. Picture by FRANK REID
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There has been little or no return on the £250million Ellis Short has invested in Sunderland over the last seven years.

No-one can justifiably accuse Short of being tight after propping the club up financially from his own pocket.

A further outlay of £20m or so is peanuts compared to the windfall which comes with Premier League football next season

He’s seen his millions squandered by a conveyor belt of managers, yet Sunderland have only fleetingly threatened to be a side who can break the pattern of annual relegation battles and fulfil that oh-so-coveted objective of mid-table stability.

Even if supporters don’t understand – or accept – the principles of Financial Fair Play while the spending of their bottom half rivals appears to go unchecked, Short is right to be looking for Sunderland to ultimately be a self-sufficient business.

But in this window – of all windows – the purse strings needed to be loosened over the next three weeks.

The sharp rise in income from the new £5billion television deal next summer has very clear financial implications for any sides who are not on the Premier League gravy train.

And in turn, it would be mindlessly bad business to look for season-saving signings in January, when the price tags of any potential targets will rise sharply.

Sunderland have splashed out almost £20m in this window and are still paying out instalments on previous transfers.

But Sunderland have recouped £9m from the sale of Connor Wickham.

In Premier League terms, their spending this summer has been modest.

They badly need to make a couple of further investments along the lines of the £8m spent on Jeremain Lens if they are serious about avoiding another nail-biter with the drop.

An additional outlay of £20m or so is peanuts compared to the windfall which comes with Premier League football next season.

Saying that, the concern at the King Power Stadium was that even if Sunderland had brought in another couple of extra players in time for the start of the season, would it have made a difference?

A defeat which was far more miserable than the 4-2 scoreline suggested, was not solely to do with a lack of quality.

Sunderland couldn’t even muster the basics as they capitulated after the softly-conceded opening goal.

For one, Leicester were a couple of yards quicker.

On the opening day of the season, players will inevitably be striving for their peak level of match sharpness. But worryingly, Leicester simply looked fitter. Why?

Surely it’s not just coincidence that all of Leicester’s pre-season friendlies were on these shores, while Sunderland were competing in jet-lagged encounters on the other side of the Atlantic.

It wasn’t just that Leicester were first to the 50-50s or were a couple of yards quicker across the turf though. The Foxes were able to take advantage of an utter lack of organisation and cohesion in Sunderland’s ranks.

Dick Advocaat wants to play with rampaging full-backs, yet that leaves a responsibility on the midfielders to add an extra layer of protection. That was never evident on Saturday.

Leicester utterly dominated in the middle of the park. On this evidence, new signing Yann M’Vila isn’t going to have to fight particularly hard to get a place in the starting XI.

But it was the raggedness of the back-line which proved fatal. One Sunderland fan remarked on Twitter yesterday that Advocaat’s side looked as if they were playing a 2-7-1 formation.

Billy Jones – and replacement Adam Matthews for that matter – was regularly caught out of position in attempting to combat Leicester’s wing-backs, and was frighteningly unreliable on the ball.

On the opposite flank, Patrick van Aanholt showed no responsibility or inclination to fulfil his defensive duties and it left acres for dangermen Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to run in behind.

Vardy loves nothing more than to run and chase, so why on earth give him the room to do that?

For the vast majority of the second half, van Aanholt was playing as a left-winger and neither of the exposed, rusty cente-halves Younes Kaboul or Sebastian Coates showed an inclination to issue a rollicking and order him to stay back.

The organisational qualities of John O’Shea were badly, badly missed and Advocaat will surely have to contemplate restoring the captain to the starting line-up against Norwich City.

It’s hardly the first time van Aanholt has been defensively susceptible though and if there is a left-back available this month (Marcos Alonso anyone?) then you wonder if Sunderland will make a move.

Considering the defensive ranks have already been ‘strengthened’, Sunderland hardly gave any encouragement that they are any better in that department.

Jermain Defoe was the one Sunderland player to emerge with any credit, yet he is not a frontman capable of leading the line in Advocaat’s favoured 4-3-3 and that is still a priority for the remainder of this window.

So too is a midfielder capable of controlling a game.

There was no control from Sunderland on the opening day, it was kamikaze football.

But there can be no papering over the cracks now from a few misleading results early in the campaign. Sunderland’s players clearly need some extra help.