Sunderland seal first signing - so what happens next and what are the priorities?

Grabban's departure leaves Sunderland in real need of a striker
Grabban's departure leaves Sunderland in real need of a striker
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Having seen the deal initially stall, Chris Coleman will be thrilled to have landed his first January signing just a week after the transfer window opened.

Results have been inconsistent since the Black Cats boss has arrived, with some excellent displays followed up by real, bitter disappointments.

It has not been a great surprise to Coleman who was fully aware of the low mood and long-term problems at the club.

His great frustration was in seeing Jonny Williams and Duncan Watmore, two players key to the system and formation he had identified, go down with long-term injuries one day before he arrived.

The injury situation has only worsened since then, with Coleman constantly having to shuffle his pack.

Jake Clarke-Salter moves him one step back closer to being able to play his way. A left-sided centre-back, mobile and comfortable on the ball, he should slot easily into the 3-4-2-1 we have seen in recent weeks.

Coleman's next priority will be to secure similar short-term deals for youngster comfortable in the other positions that he is currently short.

The Sunderland boss knows that securing the long-term signings for these roles is not a viable option at the moment given the financial situation. The expiration of a number of contracts in the summer will allow for a more natural turnover, while the club will also seal deals for Fabio Borini and Jeremain Lens and hope that Wahbi Khazri and Papy Djilobodji follow, given their relative success on loan this season.

It will be a major disappointment if after that the Sunderland boss cannot secure some of his own targets for the medium-term.

For now, his only hope of permanent deals is through selling the likes of Lamine Kone, Didier Ndong and Jack Rodwell. Quite rightly, Sunderland are not banking on it. The former have been linked with moves away for a while but concrete offers have not materialised. It may happen this month but for now, the Black Cats have to ensure they strengthen regardless.

The immediate focus is therefore getting more loans similar to the Clarke-Salter move, giving Coleman the options he needs to play the way he feels will keep Sunderland up.

If players leave either soon or later in the window, then another discussion can be had on permanent replacements and targets have been drawn up. Clearly, that would be a welcome boost.

For now, these three positions will be crucial and supporters can expect more unproven but talented youngsters for Premier League academies to arrive...


Lewis Grabban's departure has not been met with universal despair. Suspicions that Coleman wanted something slightly different up front were made very publicly clear in his post-match press conference at Middlesbrough, talking of hungry players and referring to Grabban's 'consolation and penalties' scored. Coleman lacked a natural goalscorer up front for Wales but turned that into an asset, with the likes of Sam Vokes and Hal Robson-Kanu building pressure through their physicality and pressing.

Still, Grabban's absence leaves a gaping hole in the squad and the frontline is currently not fit for purpose.

Josh Maja is a talent with real technical ability but physically needs support, while James Vaughan has put in some good substitute appearances in tight away games but generally has not done enough to lead the line.

Sunderland desperately need someone who can hold the ball up and bring the attacking midfielders into play, as well as making good runs into the channel to provide an out-ball. They probably need two.

It is Coleman's 'red flashing light' transfer priority.


Ben Woodburn is the obvious name who could play either off the two central strikers on his own are has one of two attacking midfielders, as Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman have done recently.

Both of those have struggled for form and getting them back to their best is key for Coleman.

One suspects he would like to add another option in that department, however, with Sunderland struggling for goals. Particularly at home, an extra creative option will be a help. Jonny Williams may not deliver assists and goals regularly but that 'spark' and movement is needed.

Woodburn will not be an easy deal to seal particularly if Liverpool do not replace Philippe Coutinho, and Coleman will have other targets with a similar profile in mind.


A crucial position for Coleman's system, one that Joe Ledley and Joe Allen performed superbly to allow Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale to flourish further forward.

Darron Gibson looked to have solved it, adding positional discipline and good passing range to the side. With Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo doing well on the flanks, a path to results looked to be developing, creating good overlaps and something of a counter-attacking threat.

Gibson's relatively serious injury is a major blow, seen in the dismal second half performance against Barnsley.

It is an area Coleman now has to address.