Sam Allardyce is taking a first-hand look at potential January targets, but he is yet to make ANY decisions on Sunderland exits.
Allardyce made a scouting mission to France over the weekend to watch Lorient’s 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, with the January window now just six weeks away.
Lorient have several players who have attracted interest from elsewhere, including Portuguese left-back Raphael Guerreiro and striker Benjamin Moukandjo, who has netted 10 goals in 13 Ligue 1 starts this season.
Allardyce’s trip on Saturday – an opportunity presented by Sunderland’s clash at Crystal Palace tonight – was the latest in the Black Cats’ scouting efforts, with Olympiakos left-back Arthur Masuaku and Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton watched over recent weeks.
However, contrary to reports over the weekend that Allardyce is ready to sacrifice the likes of Jermain Defoe, Steven Fletcher and Seb Larsson in January to make way for new recruits, the Echo understands that the Sunderland manager is still assessing his existing options.
Allardyce is yet to make any decisions, or hold any talks, with members of the first-team squad who could potentially depart.
The only player available at present is midfielder Liam Bridcutt, who could still join Championship Leeds United before Thursday’s emergency loan deadline.
The speculation over Defoe, in particular, is nothing new though after the striker – one of Sunderland’s top earners after arriving in a swap deal with Jozy Altidore last January – was linked with leaving the Stadium of Light during the summer.
Defoe was back on the bench for Sunderland’s defeat against Southampton a fortnight ago and is expected to remain among the substitutes at Selhurst Park this evening.
Allardyce had deployed Defoe alongside Fletcher in a front two for the first time in the 6-2 rout at Everton earlier this month and, despite the England international impressing, the Sunderland manager believes he cannot risk playing a strike pair, considering the Black Cats’ dire defensive record.
“If Jermain Defoe can play on his own up front, then maybe there’s room for him. He could be in my thoughts somewhere down the line,” said Allardyce.
“But I played Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe up front together at Everton and we got beat 6-2.
“I’d have loved it to stay 2-2 because it would have given me the confidence to go and play with a back three again.
“I played with a back three to give a bit more solidarity defensively, in the hope that we would get some goals.
“We got some goals and hit the post twice in the first 10 minutes, but then we threw four goals away after getting it back to 2-2.
“You say to yourself ‘can I do that again?’
“I’d like to because I’d like to get Jermain and Steve together, but if we’re going to keep conceding goals, I’ve got to find a solution.”