David Moyes said last week that he feels he has the core of a good Championship side in his current squad.
A great number of players will leave this summer, but a nucleus of younger players look set to stay and try and lead the fightback.
So what might the starting XI roughly look like, and where will the main strengthening need to be done?
This department will see some fascinating developments this summer.
Jordan Pickford’s departure is likely if not certain, Sunderland’s strong negotiating position meaning they should surely demand a premium or no sale at all.
Should he leave, Mannone is a ready made replacement, but after dropping down the pecking order this season, will the Italian seek a fresh start of his own?
Either way, a new keeper will be needed. John Ruddy is being mentioned regularly and would certainly be a cost effective option, but his form has dipped in recent seasons and should Pickford and Mannone go, the Black Cats will need an excellent addition to lift spirits. It isn’t a position they can cut corners on.
Jones, O’Shea, Signing, Oviedo
With Donald Love in contention too, full-backs are unlikely to be a major priority for Sunderland this summer.
Centre-halves, however, will very much be the order of the day.
John O’Shea seems likely to be offered a new deal to ease the transition, with at least two of his partners from this season set to leave. Papy Djilobodji has hinted he would like to be the third, but given his form this season it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see him still on Wearside at the start of next season.
Either way, two young signings are needed, and O’Shea’s experience should give Moyes the perfect chance to blood new faces alongside him.
He is said to be a big admirer of Ipswich Town’s Adam Webster, though the talented defender may be out of the Black Cats’ price range and is recovering from ankle ligament damage.
Ndong, Cattermole, McNair
The area where Sunderland are perhaps best stocked. Ndong is growing in maturity and presence, and Sunderland should keep him while his value grows.
Cattermole will likely stay after this season’s injury problems, while Darron Gibson and George Honeyman will offer squad options. Jack Rodwell’s future remains unclear. The big missing link is a consistent playmaker, who can play in a midfield three or just off the front line.
Sunderland’s energetic midfield against Hull was a long overdue sight and must offer something of a template for next season.
A full pre-season for Cattermole will see a big improvement in his level, and a ball player in front of him and Ndong would be a strong trio. Paddy McNair would relish the chance to be that player and he will have a big part to play, but a more prolific assist maker and goal scorer would leave Sunderland in a healthy position in midfield.
Watmore, Anichebe, Gooch
Anichebe’s future is far fom certain, but a lack of firepower could tempt Sunderland into offering a new deal.
With Watmore likely to miss the start of pre-season, a major injection of genuine pace is a must this summer. Lynden Gooch can play anywhere across the midfield but more wide options would be welcome.
With Defoe leaving, Sunderland clearly need to add at least two strikers whose strength is movement and finishing in the box.
If the Black Cats are to suceed next season, improving their goal tally and sharing it across the pitch is an obvious must.
There is a massive amount to be done.
THE POTENTIAL XI:
New signing; Jones, O’Shea, New signing, Oviedo; Ndong, Cattermole, Honeyman; Watmore, Gooch, Anichebe.