The key issues facing Sunderland, Martin Bain and Simon Grayson ahead of transfer deadline day

Sunderland's Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone - will they stay or will they go?
Sunderland's Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone - will they stay or will they go?
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Simon Grayson was seething with the manner of his Sunderland side’s 3-0 defeat to Barnsley.

What had promised to be a steady start to life in the Championship is now a bang average one, with the Black Cats 19th with five points from their opening five games.

Back-to-back league defeats to Leeds United and Barnsley deflated early optimism going into the first international break.

There won’t be anytime for Grayson & Co to rest in the coming days though as work continues apace to improve the squad ahead of Thursday’s 11pm deadline.

We look at the priorities facing Sunderland, Grayson and chief executive Martin Bain before the summer window closes.

At least one new striker.

Sunderland have added seven new faces this summer but there hasn’t been a new arrival since Robbin Ruiter signed on August 2.

League and cup games have been coming thick and fast but there has been a clear lack of further new signings.

Grayson had called for patience, which there has been in abundance from Sunderland fans.

Granted, there is an appreciation of the severe and well-documented financial limitations but fans want to see new signings. The squad needs it.

Grayson, speaking after the Barnsley defeat, said: “Over the next few days its probably going to be a lot of hard work. You never know, nothing might happen. Obviously we want to bring players in and others going out will help us get even more in. We’ll have to see where we go with it all, which is what we’ve been saying for the last few weeks.”

What Saturday did do was once again highlight the lack of quality, particularly in the forward areas.

The Black Cats are woefully short of options up front, especially if the club was to be hit with a spell of injuries like they encountered last term.

Lewis Grabban has three goals in six games but James Vaughan has struggled in front of goal. Aside from that, Grayson has teenage prospects Josh Maja and Joel Asoro to rely on, with forward Duncan Watmore making his return from a serious knee injury.

The need for firepower isn’t lost on Grayson. Ross McCormack or Jordan Rhodes would fit the bill. Getting the right deal done is another matter.

Reinforcements in central defence and out wide:

Sunderland’s defensive frailties have been woefully exposed in the defeats to Leeds and Barnsley.

Grayson’s options in central defence are limited with Lamine Kone and Tyias Browning the No.1 pairing though Kone is expected to be the source of transfer interest before deadline day, with the other options veteran John O’Shea and Papy Djilobodji who was unconvincing, to say the least, against Carlisle United.

It would be no surprise to see the club try to move on Djilobodji before Thursday.

Even if Kone stayed beyond Thursday, Sunderland need another centre-back and another winger too, with more options in the wide areas needed, especially if Wahbi Khazri gets his wish of a move granted.

Move on some of the high earners:

Grayson has been keen to point out that Sunderland are vulnerable to late bids for their key players but in order to free up significant transfer funds then the reality is more players will have to leave to help finance it.

There is interest in Didier Ndong, while it would be a major surprise should a late offer not come in for two big earners; Kone and Khazri - who has admitted he wants to leave Wearside.

Jack Rodwell was the centre of surprise transfer talk at the weekend with Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon said to be tracking the midfielder, who – unlike his teammates – didn’t have a pay-cut clause in his deal following relegation from the Premier League.

If a big bid came in for the likes of Lee Cattermole - could the club turn it down? Time will tell.

The days of paying big wages to entice players to Sunderland are, for now, over with the club in the ballpark of paying wages of between £20,000 to £30,000 a week for new signings. A good Championship wage, though with Aston Villa understood to be contributing £42,000 towards Robert Snodgrass’s £60,000 weekly wage it shows what they are competing with.

Key priority.

If the transfer window were to close at 11.01pm on Thursday without Sunderland strengthening their striking department then it would be panic stations on Wearside.

The Championship is a gruelling league, Sunderland have already played five games but still have another 41 in the league to go.

Securing another goalscorer either on loan or on a permanent deal is key. An absolute must.