What could come next for Sunderland in the transfer market as rebuild continues following Corry Evans deal
Signing number two is now through the door.
After clinching a deal for Alex Pritchard last week, Sunderland have now completed the capture of midfielder Corry Evans following his release from Blackburn Rovers.
The Northern Irish international has previous experience of gaining promotion from League One while at Ewood Park and will be another strong addition to a squad lacking in numbers.
And it’s because of the depleted nature of Sunderland’s first-team crop that no sooner had Evans put pen to paper that focus turned to who is going to be next through the door at the Academy of Light.
The Black Cats remain extremely active in the market with the club’s new-look recruitment team seeking a host of further recruits.
So what signings will the club be targeting now the deal for Evans is wrapped-up?
We take a look at the key positions and attributes that still need to be addressed.
THE KEY POSITIONS
Many of these positions are fairly self explanatory, with Sunderland clearly lacking in bodies in certain areas of the field.
The addition of Evans will bolster one of those areas, with the departures of Max Power, Grant Leadbitter, Josh Scowen and George Dobson effectively allowing a completely revamp in midfield.
Carl Winchester is expected to play a more prominent role this season, while Luke O’Nien could return to his preferred position in the centre of the park this term.
Elliot Embleton is also expected to be a key player for the club this summer - although there is outside interest – while there may also be increased opportunities for Dan Neil.
One more addition in the engine room would not go amiss – and Manchester United’s Ethan Galbraith is one name under consideration – but Sunderland have far more pressing priorities in the transfer market at present.
No more so than in the full-back areas, where numbers are alarmingly sparse.
Kenton Richardson could feature at Hearts this weekend on the right side of the back four and has previous senior experience with Hartlepool United.
But with Denver Hume still weighing-up his future, the club are alarmingly short on full-backs.
Eric Lichaj is one name under consideration, and reinforcing a threadbare backline is a top priority for Sunderland’s recruitment team at present.
That includes seeking further depth at centre back, with Bailey Wright and Tom Flanagan the only senior central defenders available for the club’s pre-season opener at Spennymoor Town.
Oliver Younger, who impressed for the under-23 side last season, could step into the senior fold this term while there are hopes that Arbenit Xhemajli can begin to show some of the promise that prompted the Black Cats to make their move last summer.
But Johnson has been clear that Xhemajli’s return will be a gradual one, and as such further recruits in this area will undoubtedly be required.
Dion Sanderson is naturally one name that is being monitored by Sunderland but there is an understanding that a return for the Wolves man could prove a difficult deal to do, especially given the Championship interest in his services.
A player of his mould, however, with the athleticism that can prove so handy in League One, would be a smart buy.
St Johnstone’s Jamie McCart is one player who has been linked with Wearside and he certainly seems to have similar attributes to Sanderson, albeit with a bit more senior experience to his name.
Behind the back four, Sunderland’s goalkeeping situation seems fairly settled at present.
Remi Matthews’ departure has paved the way for Anthony Patterson to challenge Lee Burge while Jacob Carney will also train with the senior side following his arrival from Manchester United.
Another goalkeeper may yet be sought, but Patterson is going to be handed every chance to make his mark in the short-term.
At the other end of the field, however, further signings seem all-but guaranteed.
Charlie Wyke’s departure leaves Sunderland in need of another striker and, while hopes are high that Ross Stewart can deliver in front of goal this season, it is an area in which the club will be keen to make progress.
And then there is the question of Will Grigg, who continues to be linked with an exit this summer. Any departure may another striker sought.
So to summarise, another central midfielder, at least three defenders, a wide player and a minimum of one centre forward look to be required in the remaining weeks of the window – and it is these deals that Sunderland will be targeting now.
THE KEY ATTRIBUTES
Earlier in the summer, senior club figures told a structured dialogue meeting that they would be seeking ‘industrious players, who make bold decisions and have creativity.’
Pritchard and Evans certainly fit that mould, and any further recruits will have to broadly follow that blueprint – and there will no doubt be other attributes that Johnson is keen to add to his roster.
The squad still looks bereft of raw pace and power at present and has done for some time, so that will be high on the list.
It’s also interesting to note that Sunderland’s first two additions have helped in replacing some of the experience with the departures of Leadbitter, Power and Chris Maguire at the end of the 2020/21 season.
The squad now has an experienced feel to it, which is required in the third tier, but it would be little surprise if some of the further signings made by the club were categorised as ‘up and coming’.
It’s already been stated that Sunderland will look to spend fees on players they can view as investments - those with the ability to grow and increase in value.
So a few players of that ilk may be eyed in the weeks leading up to the new League One campaign.