Settling For Second Best Again?
Let us hope that the most recent rumours regarding Sunderland targets are no more accurate than they have been all summer- Bramble? James? Campbell?
Are these players who will lift a Sunderland team who certainly scrap harder than they used to, but continue to lack speed of thought and action and are prone to giving the ball away needlessly when pressed.
Steve Bruce diagnosed the shortcomings quite accurately at the end of last season- the team will not progress into that comfortable mid-table zone where it can develop thoughts about European qualification while the centre of defence too often resembles a revolving door and the there is insufficient pace, positional sense and general football intelligence at full-back.
A centre-back who is fast, comfortable on the ball and can recover when 'wrong-sided' without fouling remains the main priority. While he is brave, this is not Bramble.
While he reads the game better, this is not a thirty-five year old Campbell. We already have in Ferdinand someone who tries hard but does not combine the guile and pace required for regular success in the Premier League- neither do these.
Indeed, it is not altogether reassuring to hear Bruce say that Bardsley and Ferdinand have returned with the right attitudes. It is not their attitudes that have been wanting in the past , but their footballing skills. Both regularly get caught out of position and concede free kicks.
How many points were lost last season because we could not retain possession for the last quarter when ahead, and conceded silly free kicks? The priority is for skilful defenders who are comfortable in possession, can move forward sensibly and retain the ball, but know where to be to when the opposition have it.
Two genuine Premier League defenders- even if they cost £20 million, will be a better investment than four or five who are not really up to it. So get on with the clear-out Steve - there is nothing that happened in the summer which has made any of those you identified for moving on better players now than they were when they came up short last season- it is just that the memory of their shortcomings has faded a little. And let us push for two really good signings, players who can sit comfortably in a back four with genuine European ambitions.