Chris Young on the futures of the Sunderland squad - Part Two

Sunderland's Connor Wickham.
Sunderland's Connor Wickham.
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IN THE second part of an end-of-season review, the Echo’s Chris Young examines the prospects of each member of Sunderland’s squad.

Today, the future prospects of Sunderland’s midfielders and strikers are scrutinised.

MIDFIELDERS

Lee Cattermole

The great survivor in the Sunderland dressing room after triumphing in the battle of wills with Paolo Di Canio.

Even after Di Canio’s departure, Cattermole could easily have departed in January after Stoke made a tempting offer of £5million, following Sunderland’s capture of fellow defensive midfielder Liam Bridcutt.

But Poyet and Ellis Short’s decision to keep Cattermole proved to be inspired after he was colossal in setting the tone during the Great Escape.

Sunderland will need to make assurances to Cattermole after he was unceremoniously touted around elsewhere last summer, yet Poyet sees the Teessider as an integral member of the team’s spine moving forwards.

Adam Johnson

When Sunderland desperately needed someone to step up to the plate, Johnson finally proved his worth in a red and white shirt after 18 months of underachievement at the Stadium of Light.

Johnson’s form at the turn of the year proved the backbone for the turnaround in Sunderland’s fortunes and while his performances were not quite so explosive over the final two months of the season, he was still the Black Cats’ most dangerous player.

The winger believes he has produced the most consistent performances of his career under Poyet’s guidance and is keen to continue working under the Uruguayan’s stewardship.

But after missing out on a spot in the World Cup squad, Johnson will need to produce even better next season if he is to fulfil his ambitions of an international recall.

Jack Colback

Had Sunderland been relegated from the Premier League, Colback would undoubtedly have departed after Roberto De Fanti messed the academy product around with a pitiful offer of a contract extension last summer.

Colback still might go. With 11 teams chasing him, he is not short on suitors. The next few days should reveal more.

But after finally getting around to making an attractive contract offer, Sunderland will hope Colback stays put, particularly after he produced such an influential run of form during the run-in.

While Colback doesn’t always produce the spectacular, he is consistent and reliable and that will cost several millions to replace in the transfer market.

Seb Larsson

Two months ago, few supporters would have shed any tears at the prospect of Larsson departing at the end of his contract this summer.

But after joining Jack Colback and Lee Cattermole in a midfield trio, Larsson produced arguably his best run of form in a Sunderland shirt - grabbing the winner at Manchester United and producing a sublime pass for Fabio Borini for the crucial second goal against West Brom.

Stoke City saw a January bid rejected for Larsson and are thought to be still keen on the Swedish international, who has been keen to return to his favoured role on the right-hand side of midfield.

Larsson wants to remain in the Premier League and after making a new contract offer last week, Sunderland hope the former Birmingham man opts to extend his three-year stay on Wearside.

Emanuele Giaccherini

A much-improved contribution over the final six games could not disguise how disappointing Giaccherini has been this season.

When money was tight last summer, Sunderland shelled out almost £7million on an Italian international, yet the winger has struggled to even hold down a starting spot under Gus Poyet.

Giaccherini insists he wants to stay at the Stadium of Light and prove himself, and if he does, he will surely be better for the experience of a campaign in English football under his belt.

But after missing out on the Italy World Cup squad, there has to be a suspicion that Giaccherini would be tempted by a return to his homeland, if Sunderland were able to recoup their outlay on the former Juventus man.

Liam Bridcutt

Gus Poyet spent the whole of the January transfer window pursuing his former Brighton midfielder, yet Bridcutt’s Sunderland career is yet to really kick into gear.

That is perhaps harsh. Bridcutt enjoyed a very respectable debut in the Tyne-Wear derby triumph and has been neat and tidy for a side which was desperately struggling for form during his early days at the Stadium of Light.

But Bridcutt is yet to prove that he can control a game in the same manner as fellow defensive midfielder Lee Cattermole.

A pre-season will help the former Chelsea trainee and Poyet will give the 25-year-old the opportunity to prove his worth in the top flight.

Ki Sung-Yueng

Three months ago, signing Ki permanently would have been at the top of Poyet’s summer priorities, if Sunderland were able to beat the drop.

But now, making a move for the on-loan Swansea midfielder looks far less likely after doubts were raised over the South Korean’s attitude during the run-in.

After the Capital One Cup final, Ki’s performances dipped significantly, albeit he was struggling with knee tendinitis.

Nevertheless, if Ki does return to parent club Swansea and remain at the Liberty Stadium, he more than played his part for Sunderland after being one of their most influential players during Poyet’s opening months at the helm.

Craig Gardner

One of the most predictable transfers of the summer was completed this week when Gardner penned a contract at long-term admirers West Brom after his release by Sunderland.

Gardner was never going to earn a new deal at the Stadium of Light this summer after being limited to an increasingly fringe role under Gus Poyet.

The Brummie had a superb attitude and the knack of scoring screamers, yet never really justified that lofty £6million outlay in the summer of 2011.

Cabral

Arguably, the biggest flop among Sunderland’s spending spree last summer, despite enjoying a promising opening day debut against Fulham.

It was telling that Cabral didn’t feature once under Gus Poyet and was immediately farmed out on loan to Genoa in the January transfer window.

With two years to run on a hefty contract, Sunderland will be desperate to remove the former Basel man from the books this summer, particularly as Genoa are unlikely to convert his loan into a permanent deal.

Charis Mavrias

At £2million, it was a big investment in the future from Sunderland last summer by splashing out on the 20-year-old winger.

Mavrias has only been given fleeting opportunities to demonstrate his potential, yet is undoubtedly blessed with natural talent. It’s a question of channelling that ability.

The Greek Under-21 international will hope to play a bigger part next season and needs to, if there is to be some kind of return on Sunderland’s outlay.

Alfred N’Diaye

The Senegal international may still be a popular figure on the terraces, yet Sunderland will look to shift him on this summer.

Poyet thought long and hard about recalling N’Diaye from his loan spell in January and watched extensive footage of his performances for Turkish side Eskisehirspor. It was telling that he opted against it.

Real Betis may not be able to re-sign N’Diaye after their relegation from La Liga, but he has plenty of other admirers in Spain and Sunderland will hope to recoup their £3.8million investment from 18 months ago.

El-Hadji Ba

The summer signing from La Havre has been given a taste of the spoils on offer after making his Sunderland debut in the FA Cup and then handed his Premier League bow on the final day.

Next season is likely to be another one of transition for Ba, who could well add to his experience with a stint out on loan.

Liam Agnew

Promoted to the first-team bench for attitude as much as anything else, Agnew has come on leaps and bounds for the Under-21s this season.

The 19-year-old can expect a loan spell at a much higher level than the one he enjoyed this season at Conference North outfit Boston.

STRIKERS

Connor Wickham

Rightly lauded as Sunderland’s saviour, Wickham’s contribution of five goals to keep the Black Cats in the Premier League was worth far more than the £8million that Steve Bruce invested three years ago.

For all the 21-year-old remains far from the finished article, he has got his head down and concentrated on doing the basics well - holding the ball up and profiting from those elusive chances.

Sunderland will need to be pro-active in offering Wickham a new deal with only 12 months remaining on his current contract.

But the England Under-21 international will surely start next season as Sunderland’s main striker. The challenge for him is whether he can stay there.

Steven Fletcher

The succession of injuries which have hampered Fletcher throughout the season have to be offered as mitigation for a meagre return of three goals.

But it has been a dramatic fall from grace for the Scotland international, who became a scapegoat on the terraces for Sunderland’s goal troubles.

Fletcher desperately needs a good pre-season where he can rediscover some match sharpness and form in front of goal.

Yet if Sunderland receive a decent offer from Fletcher’s many admirers this summer, there has to be a question mark over whether the Black Cats will be tempted to cash in.

Jozy Altidore

When he arrived at the Stadium of Light last summer, the American international repeatedly stressed that he was a much-improved player to the one who spent a season in the Premier League with Hull.

But he finished the campaign with the same tally of one top flight goal, with his chronic absence of confidence almost making him a figure of fun among supporters.

A good World Cup will increase the chances of Sunderland making their £7million investment back on Altidore.

Yet neither the 24-year-old or Gus Poyet have ruled out a second season at Sunderland. He will need to produce much, much better though.

Fabio Borini

How Sunderland fans - and Gus Poyet for that matter - will long for the Italian to return to Wearside this summer.

Borini became a firm favourite with his whole-hearted performances and crucial goals during his loan spell - a signing which was almost an afterthought on the final day of the August transfer window.

There have been mixed reports over whether Liverpool will be prepared to let Borini leave this summer, although with the added demands of Champions League football, Brendan Rodgers will be surely wary of letting the 23-year-old depart.

Sunderland will need to splash out a significant sum if they are to persuade Liverpool to sell, albeit replacing Borini will not come cheap either.

Nacho Scocco

Poyet envisaged Scocco as the player who could provide the ‘X Factor’ for Sunderland over the final dozen games after splashing out £4million in the January transfer window.

But other than a clever reverse pass in the build-up to Connor Wickham’s equaliser at Manchester City, Scocco proved to be a huge let-down.

Joining in the South American close season undoubtedly hindered Scocco, yet he looked so far off the pace that there has to be scrutiny over his prowess at the start of next season.

There has been speculation Scocco could make a quick-fire exit this summer, but unless there is a suitable bid, Poyet will have to give the Argentine international a second chance.

Danny Graham

With another two years to run on his Sunderland contract, Graham will continue to be a big drain on the club’s balance sheet unless they can offload him on a permanent deal.

Considering the £5million frontman’s wages and two years left to run on his contract at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland may have to accept sending Graham out again on loan, with Middlesbrough at the front of the queue.

Certainly, it is difficult to envisage Graham having any kind of future at Sunderland.

Duncan Watmore

One of the most promising members of the Under-21 squad after joining from Altrincham last summer, Watmore has caught Poyet’s eye.

His loan spell at SPL outfit Hibernian will have done him enormous good and the 20-year-old can hope to add to his solitary first-team outing for Sunderland next season.

David Moberg Karlsson

Just four appearances for Kilmarnock in a five-month loan spell only raises further question marks over Roberto De Fanti’s decision to invest £1.5million in the Swede 12 months ago.

Moberg Karlsson was granted a Sunderland debut under Paolo Di Canio in the League Cup, back in August, but has got nowhere near the first-team since.

If they can, Sunderland will look to offload the 20-year-old this summer, either on loan or permanently.