Transfer window analysis - Sunderland can be content with quality, not quantity

Jermaine Defoe in action against Burnley. Picture by FRANK REID
Jermaine Defoe in action against Burnley. Picture by FRANK REID
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TUMBLEWEED replaced tension at the Stadium of Light yesterday as Sunderland ended a three-year cycle of January deadline-day arrivals

It was no surprise. Since the capture of Jermain Defoe more than a fortnight ago, Gus Poyet has persistently preached that the England striker would likely be the one and only fresh face arriving at the club.

The transfer junkies have still lusted after more since Defoe’s capture.

“Why don’t we use our remaining domestic loan?” they have desperately pleaded.

But in a January market which has been surprisingly sluggish throughout the Premier League, nothing has genuinely even blipped on the radar.

That won’t particularly distress Poyet.

Way back in November, Poyet laid out his battle-plan for the January window.

Quality, rather than quantity, was Poyet’s mantra after the swathes of new arrivals over recent windows. Sunderland were always going to be looking at a maximum of two signings.

And in Defoe, Sunderland have fulfilled that remit of proven quality.

While it took a couple of games for Defoe to knock off the rust, he was still worrying defenders, before the archetypal poacher’s goal arrived in Saturday’s crucial victory over Burnley.

There will be short odds on Defoe reaching half-a-dozen goals in a Sunderland shirt before the end of the season.

The odds would have been astronomically larger on the man he replaced, Jozy Altidore, doing likewise.

Providing the service keeps coming for Defoe, the 32-year-old is a player who could make the difference between a nerve-shredding climax to the campaign or a relatively comfortable 13-14th place finish.

Should Sunderland have looked for further recruits?

In an ideal world, yes.

There are still areas of Sunderland’s squad which are thin – most notably a creative midfielder and a specialist left-back capable of covering for Patrick van Aanholt.

But there is some back-up at least for those positions.

Neither were as critical as bringing in someone capable of putting the ball in the back of the net.

And while Sunderland were still able to bring in another player from a Premier League rival, there were not an abundance of options.

Manchester United weren’t receptive to enquiries about teenage striker James Wilson, while Arsenal’s Joel Campbell was looked at by many top flight clubs before joining Villarreal on loan.

There wasn’t a lot to pick from elsewhere though.

Neither are those loans free. There’s a fee – often not too far short of a transfer fee – involved, plus wages to cover.

Why bring in a player for the sake of it?

The capture of Defoe had also put Sunderland on the limits of the Financial Fair Play regulations.

Many supporters still look at FFP cynically, believing it is an excuse to keep the purse strings tied.

It’s perhaps an understandable view considering the likes of QPR and West Ham continue to spend and spend.

From a PR stance, Sunderland could do with a member of their hierarchy reiterating the importance of FFP and explaining it in detail.

But in essence, Sunderland are ensuring that their house is in order – not spending more than comes in and attempting to reduce the reliance on Ellis Short’s cheque book.

To do that, they have had to offload the remaining remnants of the Roberto De Fanti spending spree too.

In an interview last week, De Fanti claimed he had done an “immense” job as Sunderland director of football. Inept, maybe, but not immense.

After the departure of Cabral and Charis Mavrias yesterday, only Vito Mannone and Emanuele Giaccherini remain in the first-team squad at the Stadium of Light from De Fanti’s summer at the helm 18 months ago.

Offloading Cabral, Mavrias and particularly Altidore has been excellent business from Sunderland this window.

Presuming they are still in the Premier League, Sunderland will be in a far better position in the transfer market this summer than they were 12 months ago.

There will be minimal dead-wood to shift, while they won’t need to conduct a huge supermarket sweep either.

They can focus on quality again, particularly in defence, where Celtic centre-half Virgil van Dijk is likely to be the number one target.

Sunderland didn’t need to jeopardise that by making a panic January buy such as Nacho Scocco, who had to be moved on again six months later.

While this window may have been largely quiet, Sunderland can be quietly content with just landing Defoe.