Will Sunderland be made to pay after failing to land a striker for second successive deadline day?

New centre-back arrival: Joleon Lescott warms up ahead of Tuesday nights home 0-0 draw with Spurs. Picture by Frank Reid

New centre-back arrival: Joleon Lescott warms up ahead of Tuesday nights home 0-0 draw with Spurs. Picture by Frank Reid

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Sunderland made it crystal clear that the club’s January business would be limited with a capital ‘L’.

With the club around £140million in debt and a high wage bill almost at the ceiling of the Financial Fair Play cap, there was little room for manoeuvre.

Sunderland have had to contend with a crippling injury list, with almost an entire team out at the turn of the year plus Didier Ndong, Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri away on Africa Cup of Nation duty.

New recruits, fresh blood, more quality and competition for places was badly needed if Sunderland were to stand any chance of staying up.

With expectations lowered considerably by chief executive Martin Bain in December, fans knew not to expect the world.

Indeed, Sunderland may well have even surprised a few people with the business they have done, with three new faces training at the Academy of Light.

Free agent Joleon Lescott followed by former Everton duo Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson for a combined £7.5million fee – their signings enabled by the sale of Patrick van Aanholt to relegation rivals Crystal Palace for a staggering £14million.

It’s the best piece of business Sunderland have managed since swapping Jozy Altidore for Jermain Defoe.

But is the squad stronger as a result of the January business?

In terms of numbers, certainly. Three in and one out at first-team level.

Provided Gibson can stay fit, he should help toughen up a central midfield that has been overpowered too easily and badly missed Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff.

At left-back, Oviedo is an upgrade defensively on van Aanholt.

There is no doubt the Dutchman offered a big threat going forward – he left as the joint second-top goalscorer – but he cost more goals than he helped contribute too thanks to his poor positional play and decision-making.

Oviedo isn’t afraid of joining an attack and is a danger from set pieces, but, first and foremost, Sunderland will need him to defend.

Lescott will provide defensive cover.

Had Sunderland landed Leicester City striker Leonardo Ulloa – or any other striker for that matter – then it would have been a very solid window for Moyes & Co.

But Victor Anichebe’s long-term knee injury meant Sunderland ended the window scratching around for additional firepower up front, a search that ultimately ended in failure – for the second successive transfer window.

In the summer, Sunderland shelled out a record fee on Didier Ndong but there was deadline day despair on the striker front, until Anichebe’s arrival as a free agent a few days after the window closed.

The big question is whether Sunderland will be made to pay for failing to land a striker this time round?

Sunderland have scored 20 Premier League goals, with Defoe contributing 12 and Anichebe and van Aanholt three each.

With Anichebe injured and van Aanholt sold, Sunderland’s attacking threat down the left-hand side has been decimated.

The squad is stronger in terms of numbers, but, in terms of goal threat, the failure to land another striker could prove devastating – unless there is a dramatic change in the finishing and form of Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj.

Crucially, Sunderland did manage to keep hold of Defoe, Jordan Pickford and Kone and that could prove almost as important as any new signings.

Sunderland stayed up last season on the back of a strong January window, with Kone, Khazri and Kirchhoff playing a key role in survival.

The trio of signings this year will have to go a long way to make a similar impact.

It was made clear that Sunderland wouldn’t be able to buy themselves out of trouble this time round.

Unless a prolific free agent is added to the squad, Sunderland are left relying on Moyes to get every drop of blood, sweat, tears and effort out of the current squad available to him.

It doesn’t look good, but time will tell whether Sunderland have left themselves short.