Interesting Opening Fixture?
England`s total inability to live up to expectations in the World Cup naturally got me thinking about Sunderland again, and what follows for next season.
The first game of the campaign is at home to Birmingham - a team we can draw many parallels with. They were considered a yo-yo team until this season, when they established themselves in the Premier League thanks to a brilliant run of games mid-season, where they were practically unbeatable.
Of course that mid-season purple patch is not one of the parallels. The most significant one is that they are looking upwards in the same way as the Black Cats. They have an owner who has invested in the club and provided money to spend, and both clubs boast a highly rated British manager.
I expect the opening match to be a belter because of this, and the difference between the sides could be their summer signings.
Having already bolstered a thin midfield with Paraguay international Cristian Riveros and signed highly-rated young 'keeper Simon Mignolet, Steve Bruce will be looking to expand his defensive options as his next priority.
Mathew Upson and Nedum Onuoha have both been linked but Steve Bruce has made German international Heiko Westermann his top defensive target, and a move for the centre-back could spell the end of John Mensah`s short Sunderland career as Bruce ponders a permanent move for the injury plagued Ghanian captain.
Personally, I feel like we really need wingers and full-backs. Jones and Bent`s goal threat would be further increased with quality service from wide positions - something the team lacked last season. While Campbell, Malbranque and Henderson made significant contributions, frequent crosses of a consistently good quality weren`t among them and in a 4-4-2 formation crossing is important. Real wide players with pace and purpose would improve the team.
We are supposedly close to signing Argentinian Marcos Angeleri because Spurs want too much for Hutton, but I felt that Hutton was a great attacking influence and solid around his own box, and I hope that Brucey is moving for attacking full-backs on both sides. I don`t think Kieran Richardson is a left-back and would like to see him stake a claim for a place in midfield with his creative influence.
Riveros is likely to be deployed on either side of the midfield by Bruce, despite scoring for Paraguay from the centre. He has looked quite quiet in the World Cup but is clearly tidy on the ball and uses it well in tight spots.
So far, the signings have been decent, but more ambition is needed if we are to kick on and break the top ten next season. Two more full-backs, a centre-back and two wingers would do nicely.
Any suggestions from anyone to fill these positions?