Kristjaan Speakman explains why Sunderland didn't sign another midfielder and confirms free-agent stance
Sunderland's sporting director has explained why the club didn't sign another central midfielder in the summer window
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Kristjaan Speakman says he believes Sunderland have enough depth in central midfield for the months ahead despite not signing another central midfielder in the closing stages of the transfer window.
While there was an obvious focus on recruiting strikers on deadline day, with the club ultimately signing Nazariy Rusyn and Mason Burstow, head coach Tony Mowbray had also stressed his desire to see more depth and experience arrive in midfield.
Dan Neil and Pierre Ekwah have made excellent starts to their respective campaigns, but Mowbray warned that the club would be left vulnerable should either pick up an injury.
The Black Cats were linked with a move for Fenerbahce midfielder Miguel Crespo on deadline day, but no deal materialised.
Sunderland's sporting director says that while he has thus far played in a more attacking role this season, summer signing from Birmingham City Jobe Bellingham is an option to take one of the deeper roles.
And though very much an attacking player, he added that deadline-day arrival from FC Lorient Adil Aouchiche was capable of playing as an eight.
Sunderland did consider some potential options but by the end of deadline day were prioritising deals in other positions. Speakman says he is confident the club has enough depth and was equally keen to ensure they kept a clear pathway to regular opportunities for younger players.
"We feel we’ve got three there: Dan, Pierre and Jobe," Speakman said.
"We’ve got three and then we’ve got Jay [Matete] and Corry [Evans] to come back from injury. We looked at one or two other options, Adil can play as an eight as well as a ten/eleven. So we think we’ve got enough flexibility there.
"We want to try to ensure that players have got an opportunity to play, so we want a streamlined squad. We want to ensure we’ve got enough depth of course but not so much that players can’t see a route for them onto the pitch, because that’s not good for the team culture either.
"What inevitably happens is when you’ve got your squad structure, you might be perceived to be a little bit light in some areas but we feel we’ve got cover and we’re comfortable with the flexibility we have.
"The game is evolving and positions and team shapes… we set up as a 4-3-3 last Saturday but out of possession we were a 3-4-3, we went man for man against Southampton which by the way was incredibly brave and the coaching staff should be commended for that. Most teams would sit back, but that’s not Sunderland.
"We’ve got to have flexible players within that and we’re really comfortable with it."
Unsurprisingly, Speakman therefore also confirmed that the club were not assessing any potential free-agent additions following the end of the window.
"We always assess the market but it’s not something we’re looking at in terms of thinking, ‘can we get this one [position].’ 100% not, definitely not," Speakman said.
"We’re really, really comfortable with where we ended up on the back of those deals we got done at the end of the window."