Sunderland striker targets: Experts pinpoint FIVE potential summer signings amid Charlie Wyke uncertainty
Sunderland could be in the market for attacking reinforcements this summer – but who does the data suggest they should target?
The Black Cats currently have Aiden O’Brien, Ross Stewart and Will Grigg on their books ahead of the 2021/22 campaign, although the latter has been linked with a permanent exit after his successful loan spell at MK Dons.
But the big question mark is over top scorer Charlie Wyke who remains in discussions with the club over his future amid Championship interest.
Any potential exit for the former Middlesbrough man would leave the club with a key slot to fill in their squad ahead of the new campaign – so who could be a potential replacement should that situation arise?
We used WyScout to search for players of a similar style to Wyke – in terms of his ability to win aerial duels, win back possession and contribute in the final third – and there were some interesting names thrown-up.
Here’s who the data experts believe could be a good fit for Sunderland, if they are looking for a like-for-like replacement in the event that Wyke departs:
A name which may be familiar to some Sunderland fans, the former Poland under-21 international spent time on trial with the Black Cats in August 2018 – but his time on Wearside was cut short.
Formerly of German sides FC Koln and Kaiserslautern, Przybylko is currently plying his trade in the MLS with Philadelphia Union.
And he has made a real impact stateside, scoring 7 times in 11 games already this season – building upon the 23 goals he had netted across the 2019 and 2020 campaigns.
The 28-year-old would undoubtedly be a good fit, and is a similar player to Wyke in may regards.
He is happy to press from the front and is also strong in the air, while his 6’4 frame is undoubtedly a useful weapon.
But Przybylko is unlikely to be on the move anytime soon, having penned a contract until the end of the 2023 season only last year.
A player who is well-known to Lee Johnson with the duo having worked together at Oldham Athletic, Smith is another player who WyScout feel could be similar to Wyke.
While the 32-year-old’s goalscoring record in the 2020/21 season may not make for particularly attractive reading – he netted just five times for Millwall in the Championship – Smith is a proven entity in League One.
His last spell in the third tier saw him score 13 times in 20 appearances during a loan spell at Bristol City and, while he may not be a signing for the long-term, he could prove a good short-term option as Sunderland look to escape the division.
Indeed, Smith is out of contract this summer and so could well be an attractive free agent option.
Reports in London have suggested that Millwall will offer the striker a new deal, albeit on reduced terms, and the former Leeds United man would no doubt be in high demand if he were to move on.
Currently on the books of Portsmouth, Harrison is another player who the data suggests could be of a similar mould to Wyke.
His 2020/21 season was largely disrupted by injury, with the former Ipswich Town man netting just six times in all competitions.
Indeed, he has scarcely been a prolific striker during his senior career – and it is the tangible qualities of Wyke’s goals that Sunderland will arguably be prioritising above all else during any potential striker hunt.
But he is a striker comfortable pressing the opposition backline and, while he may lack the height and presence of some of the other options presented, his ability to stretch the defender and run into channels can prove useful.
Pompey are set to seek attacking reinforcements of their own this summer, with Harrison and strike partner John Marquis entering the final years of their deals.
A name who has been linked with Sunderland plenty over recent years, Gnanduillet would undoubtedly have been a target for a number of League One sides last summer were it not for the introduction of the controversial salary cap.
Having shone at Blackpool, the talismanic striker attracted interest from across the continent and eventually headed to Turkish side Altay – only to return to the UK and sign for Hearts in the January transfer window.
He is set to enter the final year of his contract in Edinburgh this year and will be looking to help establish the side back in the top flight of Scottish football.
But if her were to be available, he would undoubtedly be a popular replacement for Wyke.
With a proven track record in League One – he scored 18 and 14 times respectively in his last two seasons at Blackpool – an aerial presence and the ability to form part of Sunderland’s relentless press, he could be a fine fit.
Not the most glamorous name on the list, but Oliver enjoyed a fine 2020/21 season - scoring 20 goals in all competitions for Gillingham.
His career record is varied, and he has spent limited time in League One, but last season suggests the former York City man could well be a good acquisition for somebody this summer.
That will be tricky to do, though, with Oliver remaining under contract at Priestfield – and the Gills will no doubt be loathe to lose their top scorer.
And whether he would be a good fit for Sunderland remains to be seen.
While Oliver is strong in the air, it remains to be seen whether he could maintain the pressing intensity that the club will be looking for.
As after all, that will be a key pre-requisite for any potential striker signing.