Analysis: The Sunderland cash point needs to keep dispensing ahead of Manchester City opener
Sunderland concluded their pre-season programme against Borussia Dortmund in the picturesque surroundings of the Cashpoint Arena in Altach, Austria.
The irony of the stadium name didn’t go unnoticed when the team sheets arrived in the seats overlooking the impressive mountain range.
With injuries and the lack of new faces denting his options, David Moyes had named his strongest possible side last night.
That included Jack Rodwell at right-back and John O’Shea in midfield, with nine youngsters on the Sunderland bench.
It set fresh alarm bells ringing among supporters growing increasingly concerned about the club’s lack of signings this summer.
The lack of competition for places a major worry.
At that stage, Sunderland were the only club still yet to sign anyone.
Yet fast forward two hours and the first signing was in the bag, a shock as Sunderland swooped to sign Senegalese international centre-back Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea for £8million.
The 27-year-old, who can also play as a defensive midfielder, has signed a four-year contract at the Stadium of Light.
Moyes has his first signing in the bag.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time, with the new Premier League season kicking off next Saturday at the Etihad Stadium.
Fans had waited long enough, but Djilobodji will provide strong competition at centre-back, while also providing extra cover in midfield.
Centre-back was one of the three priority areas Moyes had targeted. Right-back and centre-forward the other two.
The Sunderland cash point has finally sprung into action and it needs to keep dispensing.
When fully fit, the first XI is a strong side. But this past week has shown how even a small number of injuries can make a major difference.
Sunderland lack depth. And the unforgiving top flight will expose that, leaving the club with another potentially difficult season.
For much of pre-season it has been the same story for Sunderland. Despite the dearth of new signings, the club remain unbeaten after a string of promising performances.
Sunderland played well in last night’s 1-1 draw with last season’s Bundesliga runners-up Dortmund, a spirited performance against a side packed with talent.
It is difficult to judge too much given Dortmund left many of their big names on the bench until the second half, but this was without doubt Sunderland’s toughest test to date.
And they came through it well.
Rodwell played well at full-back, bar one moment when he tripped over the ball, with the defence playing well as a tight unit.
Lee Cattermole led the side from central midfield, while Jeremain Lens provided the assist in an improved display.
Results and performances on the pitch haven’t been the problem this pre-season, it has been the simple lack of numbers.
With Jermain Defoe (thigh), Jan Kirchhoff (hamstring), Billy Jones (hip) and Seb Larsson all missing the final friendly through injury, Moyes was forced to name nine youngsters on the bench.
Jordan Pickford – who has made just two senior appearances for Sunderland – was the most experienced sub. That said it all.
With Rodwell at right-back and O’Shea in central midfield, it was square pegs in round holes, with Sunderland woefully short on numbers.
Sunderland, who had sold 500 tickets for the game, wore their new all-white away strip for the first time as Fabio Borini sliced a shot wide in the opening seconds.
Dortmund – backed by thousands of their supporters – looked far more dangerous in the opening stages.
Ousmane Dembele ghosted past three Sunderland players at one point before whipping a dangerous cross across the face of goal.
Sebastian Rode then tried his luck after a poor clearance from Lee Cattermole. Rode’s effort from the edge of the area whistling past Vito Mannone’s left-hand post 13 minutes in.
Dortmund took the lead four minutes later, one-time Liverpool loanee Nuri Sahin with a clinical low volleyed finish from the edge of the area that flew past Mannone.
The impressive Dembele whipped in the cross from the right, Rodwell did well to head clear, but Sahin was quick to pounce and volley home the opener.
Lamine Kone was down on the floor at the time after taking a knock to the head as Rodwell cleared, but the referee was happy to play on as Dortmund deservedly went in leading.
Sunderland were much improved after the break, with Josh Robson on at right-back and Rodwell joining Cattermole and O’Shea in midfield.
Duncan Watmore had a penalty claim waved away, but Sunderland kept plugging away and equalised in the 66th minute through Kone’s free header at the back post.
Jeremain Lens curled in a free-kick and Kone rose highest to head home past sub keeper Roman Weidenfeller.
Two minutes later it was almost 2-1 to Sunderland, Rodwell’s header shaving the crossbar from a Lens corner.
Dortmund then made mass substitutions, with Thomas Tuchel changing his entire side over the course of the second half.
Neither side could find a winner but, in the end, the result didn’t matter.
What matters is Sunderland’s transfer business is finally up and running.
And long may it continue.
Borussia Dortmund: Burki (Weidenfeller, 45), Bartra (Merino, 45), Dembele (Aubamayeng, 45), Sokratis (Schürrle, 66), Schmelzer (Pulisic, 66), Sahin (Guerreiro, 66), Rode (Mor, 45), Kagawa (Gotze, 66), Castro (Weigl, 66), Passlack (Piszczek, 66), Ramos (Burnic, 66). Subs not used: Reckert. Goal: Sahin (17)
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Mannone (Pickford, 45), O’Shea, Kone, Kaboul, Van Aanholt, Rodwell(Gooch, 78) Cattermole (Greenwood, 84), Khazri (J. Robson, 45), Lens (Honeyman, 82), Watmore (Asoro, 67), Borini (Embleton, 84). Subs not used: Ledger, T.Robson. Booked: Khazri (40), Cattermole (81). Goal: Kone (66)