Analysis - Good transfer business so far from Sunderland, but they need at least four more

Jermain Defoe in training yesterday
Jermain Defoe in training yesterday

The thirst for those headline-grabbing signings is perhaps at its most unquenchable among supporters at this time of the season.

With Wimbledon unable to fill the footballing void and even the phony contests of pre-season yet to get underway, the transfer market offers the only available source of interest.

With Coates and Matthews on board, it’s now a case of two down, four or five to go

In fairness, for many, the hope of new signings who can end the pattern of underachievement is more exhilarating than when the season actually gets underway.

But “marquee” captures are becoming increasingly rare at this stage of the summer for those lying outside the exclusive breed at the top end of the Premier League.

With so many clubs vying for players in the £6million to £10m bracket, agents understandably urge caution to get their clients the possible financial package.

Sunderland are firmly in that category.

They are in a different stratosphere to those Premier League heavyweights who spend what they want, when they want.

At this stage, Sunderland are in the midst of carrying out those pivotal, less eye-catching pieces of the jigsaw, while they play the game of transfer poker in putting the feelers out for those who offer the icing on the cake.

Last week’s double signing of Sebastian Coates and Adam Matthews has got the ball rolling at least and provided the solid foundations for a spending spree which needs to tally at least half-a-dozen fresh faces by September 1.

Coates offered one of the most straightforward pieces of business that the club will conduct this summer after his contribution to the Great Escape utterly transformed his prospects of staying on Wearside permanently.

And Matthews was a cost-effective option to provide competition for Billy Jones in the right-back berth, while providing the attacking initiative which Dick Advocaat wants to see from his full-backs.

That was arguably the only position this summer too where Sunderland could afford to bring in a player who would not necessarily be a first-team regular, even if Matthews himself will be hopeful of dislodging Jones.

But with Coates and Matthews on board, it’s now a case of two down, four or five to go.

While Sunderland needed to boost their defensive options this summer, the pivotal aspect of Lee Congerton’s transfer business was always going to be whether he could produce a marked improvement in the potency of an attack which laboured so regularly last season.

Only relegated Burnley netted fewer Premier League goals than the Black Cats. It doesn’t take a Mensa IQ level to work out why Sunderland found themselves embroiled in the thick of the relegation battle.

Creativity, guile, pace will all be buzz words on Advocaat’s list of requirements.

Yes, Sunderland still need another centre-half and the significant interest in Belgian international Nicolas Lombaerts is encouraging if Celtic’s price tag on Virgil van Dijk proves prohibitive.

But with Coates signed and sealed to remain alongside John O’Shea and Wes Brown, there are existing options for Advocaat at centre-half, if the pursuit of Lombaerts or van Dijk drags on until later in the window.

There is less breathing space for the other priorities of a creative midfielder, a left winger and possibly a striker.

The first two, in particular, were at the top of Advocaat and Congerton’s shopping list this summer and has been reflected in the club’s main targets that have emerged over the last fortnight.

Stewart Downing is high on the list, even if Middlesbrough retain strong aspirations themselves of taking the ex-Sunderland loanee back to the Riverside through the emotional pull of playing a part in getting his hometown club back into the Premier League.

Downing would fill a void either out wide or in the central creative role where he thrived for the Hammers last season, and even though he is approaching 31, is still a proven, quality Premier League performer.

Yes, Sunderland would still need an element of extra pace in the attack and Dutch international Jeremain Lens is very much a plausible target on the left flank, albeit Besiktas have now entered the race for the Dynamo Kiev man.

The striking position is also an area that needs addressing after Connor Wickham and Jordi Gomez joint top-scored for the Black Cats last season with a paltry six goals.

But with Wickham, Steven Fletcher, Danny Graham and Jermain Defoe all options available to Advocaat, one of those will probably need to depart to make a space in the striking ranks.

Advocaat and Congerton are not blind to those areas though.

Movement should begin to happen now that the transfer window is open.

There won’t necessarily be a glut of extra faces on the plane to California this weekend when Sunderland head to the USA for the first leg of their North American pre-season trip.

But the cogs are beginning to turn.

These next four-and-a-half weeks will be the decisive ones in landing those “quality” signings that Advocaat hopes will transform the sequence of annual struggle in the doldrums.