This is what to expect from Sunderland in the January transfer window

Sunderland's January window looks increasingly to be a question of quality, not quantity.

Though some key senior players will remain sidelined through injury for the foreseeable future, Lee Johnson has been boosted by the return of a handful of important figures in recent weeks.

Corry Evans has produced two excellent performances in the starting XI, while Dennis Cirkin and Denver Hume have both taken significant steps forward in their recovery.

Johnson has the core of an XI performing exceptionally well, and has admitted that working with a smaller group has actually helped build stability, confidence and cohesion.

Sunderland boss Lee Johnson is in the market for new recruits

All the same, there is no doubt that adding some depth and quality will be essential if Sunderland are to turn a promising first half of the campaign into a promotion season.

Though recent results have been good, depth on the bench has been limited and the Black Cats have been fortunate that their threadbare options have not been pushed further.

Nathan Broadhead's hamstring injury means that another high-quality forward is an absolute must. Ross Stewart has been outstanding through the first half of the season, but the Black Cats are one injury away from being left with a crisis of experience in a crucial part of the pitch.

Similarly, not recruiting a right-back in the summer is yet to really cost Sunderland due to the form of Carl Winchester and Bailey Wright out of position, but with Niall Huggins still sidelined an orthodox option is a must.

Beyond that it becomes about adding some depth and quality wherever Johnson feels necessary.

Central midfield is one area that could perhaps be bolstered, and in the wide areas there is the option to recall either Jack Diamond or Josh Hawkes.

Sunderland could yet bring one back for the duration of the window, and then make a final decision when they have a better sense of when injured players (like Aiden McGeady) will be back, and to what extent they will recruit themselves.

The Black Cats have already been linked with Manchester City attacking midfielder Patrick Roberts. The Echo understands he is one of a number of names in discussion as the club finalise their targets.

Sunderland will begin 2022 top of the League One table, and so supporters will look to Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and the board to demonstrate the intent to cement that position and strengthen.

There is unlikely to be a significant departure from the model employed in the last two windows.

There will be fees spent if a young player who can grow with the club in the long term can be identified, while Johnson has also said that they will look to add experience through Championship players coming to the end of their contract if possible.

A reshuffling of loan options also looks a possibility, though Sunderland are eager to ensure they are not dependent on that market.

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the schedule right across the footballing pyramid, Sunderland are one of many clubs anticipating the loan market to be a slow one as Premier League clubs try to retain big squads for as long as feasibly possible.

Hence why a united and ambitious showing from the club's still opaque ownership structure could prove crucial.

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