What Sunderland January transfer deals will '˜perfectionist' Jack Ross be targeting?
Jack Ross is, by his own admission, a perfectionist.
“I probably never enjoy the games that much because I’m always looking for perfection. I’ve always been like that.”
There has, of course, been plenty to enjoy from a Sunderland perspective; the buzz is back on Wearside following the arrival of Stewart Donald & Co plus the impressive Ross and a new-look squad at the Stadium of Light.
Despite the summer upheaval, Sunderland came storming out the blocks with four wins and a draw from their opening five games before a three-game winless streak saw their momentum stutter.
It has been regained in recent weeks with Sunderland fifth in League One, 12 games in. A satisfactory start.
Clearly Ross would like to see his Sunderland side in the automatic promotion slots, but a strong platform is now in place from which to build.
This is, after all, a fiercely competitive division as Sunderland are discovering.
Thoughts will now inevitably turn to the January transfer window and which areas of the pitch Sunderland can strengthen in order to achieve their aim of an instant return to the Championship.
Do Sunderland, reported to have scouted Dundee midfielder Glen Kamara over the break, need to strengthen?
The Black Cats squad is strong, no doubt, with options aplenty for Ross when all of the players are fit, but as ex-Sunderland striker Stephen Elliott said in a live Q&A with fans on the Echo’s SAFC Facebook page last week: “You can always improve and there’s always levels of players that you can improve on.”
The options in goal, wing-back and central midfield are strong.
Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore are expected to be back around the first team picture later this year. A huge bonus for Sunderland. They will feel like two new signings.
We all know the damage Watmore could cause at this level, though there is natural caution after two serious knee injuries.
Ross still wanted another left-footed forward in the summer, but was unable to do so because of the wage restrictions given Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji remained on the books.
Ndong’s ‘amicable’ departure last week will help on that front.
It would be no surprise to see Ross target another forward. Josh Maja’s form has been stunning, but it is asking a lot of a 19-year-old to sustain that over the course of a 46-game league campaign.
He will need assistance, Jerome Sinclair looks a real talent, but is yet to fire on all cylinders and Watford can recall him in January, though that looks unlikely at this stage.
Sunderland will have to tread carefully with Watmore, while Wyke has had his injury problems and Chris Maguire – Sunderland’s best player to date – isn’t a natural goalscorer.
Ross favours a 3-5-2 system so another centre-back would be a welcome addition too, with Glenn Loovens, currently injured, unlikely to play every game at the age of 35.
With Loovens, Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan the first choice, the only other option is Alim Ozturk as Adam Matthews isn’t a natural centre half.
Much will also depend on the futures of Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo.
There was intense speculation in the summer but they remained.
Cattermole has since spoken passionately about why he wanted to stay but if a club came in for him, then he may not have a choice as one of the highest earners.
Same goes for Oviedo.
Promotion is the ultimate aim and Ross and the recruitment team won’t leave any stone unturned in their bid to achieve it.
Sunderland have an excellent League One squad, but provided finances permit, there is always room for improvement if they are to fight their way into the automatic promotion slots.
As Ross said himself: “You just want to go top and stay there.”