Sunderland's seven summer signings graded: How have ex-Coventry City duo, Reading loanee and Northern Ireland defender fared in opening League One fixtures?
Sunderland’s summer transfer business was not about major surgery, it was focused on strengthening key areas and adding greater athleticism to the side.
Seven signings were made, with the Black Cats winning three, drawing two and losing one of their opening six fixtures.
Jack Ross’ squad has enjoyed a free weekend as a result of the home game against Burton Albion being postponed due to international call-ups, Sunderland back in action away to Accrington Stanley this Saturday.
On the transfer business Ross said: “We learned from last season, we felt we had a good season but ultimately fell short.
“So we then had to identify what we maybe lacked in the squad and hopefully we’ve addressed that.
“It’s still very early for us but we think we have those attributes that give us a greater athleticism.”
Ahead of the game, we assess the impact so far of the seven signings.
Lee Burge (goalkeeper, 26, signed on a free, two appearances so far).
With Robbin Ruiter and Max Stryjek leaving, Sunderland needed to add competition.
With Jon McLaughlin firmly established as No1, Ross signed Coventry City No1 Burge.
He will do well to overtake McLaughlin as the first choice this season and will have to be patient.
So far, Burge has made two appearances, both in the Carabao Cup and impressed in the two 3-1 victories over Accrington Stanley and Burnley.
Sheffield United next in the third round, while Burge can also look forward to a run of games in the Leasing.com Trophy.
Conor McLaughlin (full-back, 28, signed on a free, seven appearances so far)
Adding more options at full-back was a priority with Bryan Oviedo, Reece James, Adam Matthews and Donald Love all departing.
Ross signed experienced defender McLaughlin on a free, the ex-Millwall man is a Northern Ireland international and comfortable at right-back and in central defence.
McLaughlin has also had a spell at left-back but didn’t look overly comfortable on his wrong foot.
So far it has been a mixed bag for the defender, he started the season in a back three and has been shuffled across the backline.
Not yet been able to cement a regular place in the side and with Denver Hume and Laurens De Bock battling it out at left-back and Luke O’Nien at right-back, he has fierce competition for a start.
Jordan Willis (centre-back, 25, signed on a free transfer, seven appearances so far)
The signing of the summer.
The former Coventry City defender has firmly established himself as the No1 centre-back, and has struck up a promising partnership with Alim Ozturk, the 3-0 defeat to Peterborough United aside.
Despite not yet being able to celebrate a first clean sheet, Willis has settled quickly, his pace, athleticism and ability in the air a key asset for Sunderland.
Sunderland further strengthened their defensive options with the late arrival of Joel Lynch but the Willis/Ozturk partnership is one worth pursuing with.
Willis looks a class act.
Joel Lynch (centre-back, 31, signed on a free, 0 appearances)
The ex-Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield and QPR centre-back has a wealth of experience and should prove a savvy signing by the Black Cats, once he’s up to match fitness.
Lynch was without a club this summer so has been training alone, therefore his fitness, by his own admission, is two or three weeks away from where he needs to be.
Lynch played against Carlisle United in the 5-1 win behind closed doors last Monday.
Laurens de Bock (left-back, 26, signed on season-long loan from Leeds United)
Yet to make an appearance following his deadline day loan from Championship Leeds United.
Ross was desperate to add another left-back following the summer exits of Bryan Oviedo and Reece James.
Denver Hume started the season as first choice left-back and it will be all eyes on the teamsheet at the Wham Stadium to see who gets the nod against Accrington Stanley.
George Dobson (central midfielder, 21, signed from Walsall, six appearances so far)
Very much in the same mould as Luke O’Nien, Dobson looks to be another talented gem picked up by Sunderland.
Dobson is a box-to-box midfielder and when he has featured has added real pace, legs and energy in the middle of the pitch.
He has also shown good character, notably in the draw at Ipswich Town where he kept probing away despite Sunderland’s struggles.
There is stiff competition in central midfield with Leadbitter, Power, McGeouch among Ross’ other options.
Dobson has held his own so far and shows plenty of promise.
Marc McNulty (striker, 26, signed on loan from Reading, five appearances, one goal)
A hamstring injury hampered his impact since arriving on a season-long loan deal, with the striker returning for the deflating defeat at Peterborough United.
McNulty has shown though what he will bring to this Sunderland side, the 26-year-old is very direct, a menace for defenders, relentless in his running and he isn’t afraid to wind up the opposition.
McNulty also carries a goal threat and has one to his name already. Plenty of signs of promise in his early appearances and Ross will be hoping he is firing following the international break.
Charlie Wyke will serve a one-game ban at the Wham Stadium, a chance, therefore, for McNulty to stake a claim.