Sunderland's transfer situation and where Alex Neil is looking to strengthen ahead of Coventry clash

Sunderland bolstered their defensive options last week following the arrival of Aji Alese from West Ham – yet Black Cats boss Alex Neil still wants to strengthen in several positions ahead of the new Championship campaign.

Here, are some of the key questions with less than two weeks to go until the Black Cats’ season opener against Coventry:

How have Sunderland done so far?

One of the positives for Sunderland is they have managed to keep the core of last season’s promotion-winning squad together.

Sunderland boss Alex Neil. Picture by Frank Reid

Re-signing the likes of Bailey Wright, Lynden Gooch, Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts should help the club maintain some of their momentum, and the atmosphere has looked positive in pre-season.

New signings Daniel Ballard and Aji Alese mean Sunderland have four centre-back options and appear well stocked in that position.

The challenge now is adding more quality and depth to be competitive in a higher division.

How many more signings do Sunderland need?

Neil said after the Dundee United game that he wants at least two more striker options to provide more variety and competition for Ross Stewart.

It’s also clear that Sunderland need at least one more goalkeeper, with Anthony Patterson the only senior option at the club.

While Alese can also play at left-back, Neil wants a more natural option to compete with Dennis Cirkin, while Trai Hume’s development will determine whether more cover is needed on the right side of defence.

Sunderland have multiple options in central midfield but could try to provide more cover for Corry Evans in the holding deep-lying role.

It was also interesting that Sunderland made offers for attacking midfielder Jack Rudoni, meaning they could still sign another attacking midfielder.

Who are Sunderland interested in?

Neil has praised the club’s recruitment team for working ‘quietly in the background,’ after the Alese deal was completed without any public attention.

That will be reassuring to supporters and shows that negotiations are constantly taking place behind the scenes.

One of Sunderland’s main targets this summer is Everton’s Nathan Broadhead, who impressed on loan at the Stadium of Light last season.

The Black Cats have to respect the fact that Broadhead is an Everton player and travelled with the squad for their pre-season tour of the USA.

Yet Broadhead’s absence from Saturday’s friendly against Arsenal, when the Toffees used 22 players, has raised more question marks over his future at Goodison Park.

One complication is that Broadhead only has a year left on his contract at Everton, making another loan move less likely.

Still, the Welshman enjoyed his time at Sunderland last season and a move seems to suit all parties if terms can be agreed.

Tottenham’s Troy Parrott is another versatile forward on the Black Cats’ radar, yet multiple Championship clubs have expressed an interest in signing the 20-year-old on a season-long loan deal.

Can we expect any signings before the Coventry game?

Neil is certainly hopeful he will have more players to choose from when the season kicks off.

Sunderland may have to wait on a few targets, though, particularly players they are interested in signing on loan.

With Premier League clubs able to make five substitutes this season, top-flight managers could operate with bigger squads, making them less likely to sanction a loan move too early in the window.