On Tuesday night, Sunderland travelled to Bradford City for their latest pre-season friendly. Alex Neil changed his entire starting eleven to give squad players the chance to impress. However, a 2-0 defeat to Mark Hughes’s League Two side has highlighted the need for Sunderland’s squad to be strengthened further ahead of the new campaign.
The Black Cats begin their first season back in the Championship following four seasons in League One on Sunday, July 31. They will face Coventry City at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland’s Squad Requires Further Strengthening
— Sunderland Echo SAFC (@sunechosafc) July 20, 2022
Several Signings Made but More Required to Strengthen Sunderland’s Squad
So far this summer, Alex Neil has secured the players he wanted who were out of contract following last season’s promotion. Bailey Wright, Lynden Gooch and Patrick Roberts all signed new deals. Winger Leon Dajaku was also signed permanently following his season-long loan.
Jack Clarke was signed on a permanent deal from Tottenham Hotspur after impressing on loan during the second half of last season. Defenders Danny Ballard and Aji Alese have also arrived from Arsenal and West Ham United respectively.
However, there are still areas within the squad that must be filled if Sunderland are to have a successful season.
A New Striker is a Must
Currently, Alex Neil has just Ross Stewart as his only recognised striker. Last season’s top scorer who did not feature at Bradford is a certainty to begin the campaign; however, at present Neil has no backup option within his squad.
It is no secret that the Black Cats want Everton’s Nathan Broadhead. The forward scored 13 goals in 27 appearances while on loan on Wearside during the last campaign. Toffees boss Frank Lampard wanted to take a closer look at him before deciding on his future before making a decision. Everton and Broadhead are currently in the USA on a pre-season tour; however, it has been noted that Broadhead did not make Lampard’s 22-man squad for their latest friendly.
With a little over two weeks to go to the first game of the season, Alex Neil can’t afford to wait too long before bringing a new striker to the club.
Anthony Patterson Needs Competition for Number One Position
Goalkeeper Anthony Patterson was third choice last summer; however, due to injuries, the 22-year-old was recalled from loan and given his first taste of league football at Sunderland. Following a nervy start, Patterson made the position his own despite others recovering from injury. His impressive performances considerably helped the Black Cats win promotion.
The departures of Thorben Hoffmann and Lee Burge has left Patterson as the only senior goalkeeper at the club. Under-23 keeper Jacob Carney played in the defeat at Bradford and despite having a promising career ahead of him, his performance highlighted the need for a more experienced player to come in and challenge Patterson.
Fullback Positions Need Addressing
Currently, Alex Neil has three fullbacks at his disposal. Despite this, Sunderland have only had one of these as a regular in the first team due to injuries and inexperience. Left-back Dennis Cirkin who arrived from Tottenham last summer made 34 appearances in all competitions.
20-year-old Trai Hume made three appearances following his arrival from Northern Irish club Linfield in January. Niall Huggins, a signing from Leeds United made just two appearances. Due to this, Alex Neil and his predecessor Lee Johnson were forced to use midfielders and wingers in fullback roles.
Alex Neil Wants New Players as Soon as Possible
Head coach Alex Neil has spoken of his desire to bring in more players but admitted that the club are not in control as to when other clubs decide on when to release players. Speaking to the Sunderland Echo Neil said: “There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try to make sure we remedy that. That situation hasn’t changed over the last few weeks.
“I’m not standing here saying everything’s terrible because we’ve only got one centre-forward – we’ve had discussions with regard to who we’re going to try to get in, who we’re speaking to, how we’re going and where it is. But as I’ve said before, we need to talk to other teams, and then it becomes a question of are they going to let players out on loan, are they going to sell them, what are they going to do with them?
“Unfortunately, for us, that’s not our decision. We can’t dictate when we get hold of those players. Naturally, I want them in just now. But you’re not always in control of that situation.
“I don’t want to do my business on the last day in August – I want to get my business done as quickly as possible. But as I say, the simple fact, unfortunately for us, is that we’re not in control of that.
“There’s been ongoing discussions with numerous players, from different clubs, and the minute we get something across the line, which I can assure you we want to get done as soon as possible, then everybody will be made aware.
“At certain times, though, that process cannot get speeded up by what we’re trying to do. We’re banging the door down as much as we can.”