Breaking down exactly how many signings Sunderland still need and where they need them

Lee Johnson candidly admitted on Tuesday night that Sunderland still have a significant amount of work to do in the transfer market ahead of the League One campaign.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 12:51 pm

The Black Cats have made three summer signings, but after a significant number of departures there are some major gaps in the current squad.

Johnson admits his final squad is some way off being completed, and says he need between four and six signings before the end of the window.

The exact number will depend on who comes in, and the options that then gives him.

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Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson

Here, we break down exactly how that ‘domino effect’ could work and where the biggest gaps remain...

GOALKEEPERS

The expectation remains that Anthony Patterson will provide cover and competition for Lee Burge this year, with Jacob Carney taking Patterson's role from last season.

Sunderland will continue to monitor the market and a loan for Patterson later in the window remains a possibility.

Verdict: None

FULL BACKS

Right now the two full back positions are quite clearly both Sunderland's biggest priority and concern.

Johnson currently has no senior options on either flank, though Luke O'Nien is clearly comfortable at right back and with the head coach admitting that he'll have to be flexible in the early weeks of the season, that looks like a short-term solution.

At left back there remains both a hope and an expectation that Denver Hume will agree a new deal, but there has been no resolution as of yet and a hamstring injury means he remains some way short of fitness anyway.

Tyrese Dyce has done well in pre-season, but is inexperienced and needs a campaign of regular U23 football.

Kenton Richardson has also done well in his two recent appearances, but Sunderland need at least two players in across the two flanks.

Three if Hume leaves, and four if O'Nien is not being considered as a right-back long term.

Verdict: Definitely two, probably three

CENTRE BACKS

Johnson has confirmed that Sunderland are in the market for another centre back, regardless of what happens with his current options.

Arbenit Xhemajli will be phased in over the first half of the season as he continues to recover from a major knee injury, while Jordan Willis is likely to miss most of the campaign.

Callum Doyle has made a major impression but further cover is needed.

Even greater change is a definite possibility.

Wigan Athletic have a strong interest in Bailey Wright and Johnson admitted on Tuesday night that the club could have a decision to make at some stage.

Any further departure, whether it be Wright or Tom Flanagan, would require another arrival to ensure adequate cover for the campaign.

Verdict: One, possibly two

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Johnson has spoken before about setting up with a six, an eight and a ten in the system that best matches his overall playing philosophy.

As such, there is an obvious overlap with attacking midfield and in that ten role, Elliot Embleton and Alex Pritchard look to be strong options.

Whether Sunderland need to recruit further for those other two rules depends largely on whether or not they see Dan Neil as being ready for significant involvement.

Johnson's comments after the win at Hearts suggested he is currently seen as just on the cusp, but he excelled at York and could yet force his way into contention.

If he did, that would leave Johnson with four options now that Corry Evans is in the building.

Carl Winchester can play both roles, while Luke O'Nien is expected to push for that eight position, one that should suit his athleticism.

So while a further addition is very much possible (with Manchester United's Ethan Galbraith one option being monitored) and perhaps even probable, it doesn't look to be the immediate priority.

Verdict: Likely one

ATTACKING MIDFIELD/WING

Sunderland's options through the wide areas are strong, with Aiden McGeady sharp and in form. That the winger is able to have a full pre-season campaign for the first time since the club dropped into the third tier is a major boost.

Jack Diamond is also set for a key role throughout the campaign and though their strongest position is playing just off the striker, Lynden Gooch joins Embleton and Pritchard in being able to play in either of the wide roles.

That gives Johnson good flexibility, though many supporters are keen to see the arrival of another orthodox winger.

A lack of raw pace has long been an issue in the Black Cats squad, though Diamond and Ross Stewart should address that to an extent.

Johnson does not like to work with big squads, and in this position he needs to strike a balance between having depth and maintaining a realistic competition for places.

Verdict: Possibly one

STRIKERS

Stewart looks set to lead the line this season and the hope is that his athleticism and ability to stretch the opposition defence will add a new dimension to Sunderland's game.

The concern, of course, is whether the Black Cats will be able to replace Charlie Wyke's impressive goal return.

Aiden O'Brien has proved an effective second striker but has a modest goal return.

As such, it would be a major surprise if Sunderland did not move to bolster their ranks further.

Of course, a major piece of the puzzle is that Will Grigg's future remains unresolved.

The striker has played a full part in pre-season so far and with Wigan and MK Dons both strengthening their forward line, an exit is possible but not certain at this stage.

A significant earner, his future will clearly have a knock-on effect as to the business Sunderland do.

Verdict: One

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