Business across the EFL has so far been slow and so Sunderland's progress has to be put into that context. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being felt by clubs and the market is understandably going through a period of significant readjustment. Sunderland have moved to a more colloborative approach, with Johnson working closely with Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman and Head of Recruitment Stuart Harvey to identify targets. No player will be approved without Johnson's approval, but Speakman is clearly the key figure in the footballing operation. Having also been in charge of contract talks and decisions, this summer represents a crucial early test. Sunderland are in it for the long haul under Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, but the need for a strong campaign next time out is obvious.

The strongest Sunderland XI and squad Lee Johnson could pick right now and the clear transfer priorities it shows

Sunderland's summer business is yet to begin in earnest, with four potentially key players weighing up contract offers from the club.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 4:38 pm

The club remain hopeful that Luke O’Nien, Charlie Wyke, Denver Hume and Aiden McGeady will commit their futures to their club as they weigh up contract offers, but in the case of the first two in particular there are clear concerns that a club from a higher tier could win the race.

The future of that quartet is clearly going to go some way to defining what incoming business the club does, with all potentially key players in Lee Johnson’s plans for next season.

Either way, there is clearly going to be a significant rebuild of the squad.

Sunderland want to bring down the average age, promote developing talent from the academy and pivot towards a more data-led approach to recruitment.

The work ahead for the new executive team is considerable.

The departure of a number of senior players at the end of their contracts has left a number of gaps in the squad, and it seems certain that there will be at least two more departures before a fourth attempt at winning promotion from League One begins in earnest.

So where are the key priorities to be addressed, and what clues can we draw from what Johnson’s side could look like from the players who still remain?

We’ve run through the strongest XI, and squad, that the head coach has at his disposal right now as the first pre-season fixture at Spennymoor Town nears.

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