Phil Smith's Sunderland Deadline Day Q&A: The deals that did and didn't happen under the microscope

Sunderland’s busy summer window ended with four confirmed deals on deadline day.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 5:33 pm

Thorben Hoffmann and Leon Dajaku arrived on season-long loan deals, while Jack Diamond and Will Grigg joined Harrogate Town and Rotherham United on similar arrangements.

Phil Smith has been taking questions from readers on the deals that did and didn’t happen, as well as assessing where the squad now stands.

You can read his responses below...

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Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman

How committed will Aiden O’Brien be if his move to Doncaster Rovers fell through?

I’m sure it will be something that is addressed pretty quickly behind the scenes.

O’Brien said after his hat-trick at Blackpool that he had held discussions with Lee Johnson around his gametime, and so the prospect of a potential move would undoubtedly have come up.

Johnson rates O’Brien, but the shift in style this season and the introduction of that extra playmaker in the number ten role has obviously had an impact.

Sunderland were looking for potential additions of their own as Will Grigg moved towards his Rotherham move, and so it will be a case of getting back to work and reassessing the situation when January comes around.

I don’t think there will be any real issues with O’Brien moving forward.

He’s a very down-to-earth guy, a proper professional and someone who has clearly given 100% even when a bit frustrated in the early stages of this season.

His versatility and physicality will be an asset over the next few months and he’ll know that the best thing for him as he enters the final year of his contract is to keep making an impact whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Where does Anthony Patterson fit in now another keeper has signed?

It’s an interesting question.

When it became clear that Sunderland were looking for another goalkeeper in the final weeks of the window, it was put to Johnson that a loan move for Patterson would surely then be the way forward.

He said it could, but rejected the implied suggestion that the young goalkeeper was therefore second choice.

Since then Lee Burge’s injury has pushed him into action and he’s done well.

Long term, they have a lot of belief in Patterson and that he can fit into the new philosophy.

But Thorben Hoffmann has more senior experience and has also come through a system where this way of playing is ingrained.

There’s the option to sort out a National League loan for Patterson, but I think there’s an argument for him staying with the senior group so he can get even more comfortable and confident.

There’s going to be plenty of cup games over the next couple of months, too.

Having strong back up is also useful just in case it takes Hoffman a little while to settle and adapt.

I don’t think having three goalkeepers expecting to play is sustainable in the long run, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was revisited in January.

But I don’t think this means we’re going to see less and less of Patterson.

How many of the loans are with the option to buy at the end of the season?

To the best of my knowledge only the Thorben Hoffmann and Leon Dajaku deals have options to purchase included in the loan deals.

However I think in all cases the club have tried to recruit players who they believe have the possibility of having a longer-term future at the club.

At 23 Nathan Broadhead needs regular football and it’s not hard to see how a good year on Wearside could lead to another arrangement of some sorts.

And while Callum Doyle very obviously looks to have a very bright future at Manchester City, it’s still early days in his development there and you’d think a good year would mean Sunderland would be at the front of the queue for any future loans.

Similar with Frederik Alves, though we have not seen a great deal of him yet.

The key for Sunderland is to win promotion and develop these players.

That gives them the best possible chance of being in a strong position come future windows.

Very pleased overall with signings but feel like we could have done with another striker?

I think most share that view.

It probably wasn’t the easiest position to recruit, with Ross Stewart starting the season in such outstanding form and Nathan Broadhead also going straight into the matchday squad.

If you’re a young player looking at a loan move, for example, you’re going to have some concerns about your likely playing time against that sort of competition.

I think Sunderland’s options are really good, and it’s a luxury to have Aiden O’Brien’s versatility.

He’s a good player who can be trusted.

For sure, you’re an injury away from being a little light but the positive is Broadhead, probably in the cups, is going to get a real opportunity to settle.

This position will be revisited in January, I think.

Did we need cover for Luke O’Nien and why didn’t we add another full back?

I think the loan rules must have had an impact with the latter.

You can only name five in any matchday squad and Sunderland clearly prioritised the deals for Hoffmann and Dajaku.

I think Carl Winchester’s form was a big factor, and there remains a chance that Denver Hume will agree a new deal to bolster those ranks.

If he did, then you have four full-back options, with the potential to also drop Winchester into midfield as well.

He was excellent there against Blackpool.

Johnson does like to run a leaner squad as he believes it’s better for spirit and cohesion, and players like Winchester and Huggins fit the bill perfectly.

I do agree that the squad is maybe one light, and that could be addressed in January.

One bad injury at full back or in midfield right now would leave you nervous, for sure.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you with this window and how do you see the recent signings from Germany being used?

I would give it an eight.

Were Denver Hume to sign a new deal, I’d go to a nine.

It’s been really refreshing to see spaces carved out for the club’s best academy talent, and players being recruited to fulfill clear and specific roles.

It was a sluggish start but you’d have to say the club have delivered on their pledge to move into a very new era.

The only reservation is the very obvious fact that a lot of these players are inexperienced at both senior and League One level.

They’ve been great to watch so far and I think that will continue, but it’s a tough league.

As for the new arrivals, I think Hoffmann will go pretty much straight into the side.

Dajaku sounds like a very direct winger, so should slot naturally onto either flank.

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