Sunderland's transfer state of play explained, key priorities plus midfield and striker hunt update

Sunderland are yet to make an addition in the January window - but what's the state of play as things stand?

As part of our regular weekly feature - Phil Smith tells you what to expect next as the Black Cats look to strengthen their options...

WHAT ARE THE KEY POSITIONS SUNDERLAND ARE LOOKING TO RECRUIT IN - AND WHAT KIND OF DEALS SHOULD WE EXPECT?

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Primarily Sunderland are looking to add another midfielder following Jay Matete's loan switch to Plymouth Argyle.

Ellis Simms could yet return to the Stadium of Light in the January transfer window

They also need to strengthen up front, which was probably the case even before Everton exercised the recall clause in Ellis Simms' loan.

While additions do not appear to be imminent, Tony Mowbray said late last week that the situation had 'developed' and the Black Cats have been in advanced negotiations over some targets. How quickly that develops into an Academy of Light scarf picture remains to be seen - but there remains confidence that deals to strengthen Mowbray's options will happen.

In terms of what to expect from the deals themselves - well Sunderland aren't expected to deviate from their strategy. Ideally they would like to add some talented youngsters to their squad on permanent deals, who can contribute but develop significantly over time.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said well in advance of the window opening that the club was still looking to build the value of the squad, and so there are funds to invest on fees in the right player. Loans, though, could help add some depth and experience if the right permanent deals aren't available in this window.

The best bet is probably a combination of loan and permanents.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT SUNDERLAND’S MIDFIELD HUNT?

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Mowbray told The Echo last week that he was looking for a versatile midfielder. It's crucial that they can offer cover for Corry Evans in the important holding midfield role - a position where the club have at times been exposed this season. However, in the aftermath of Matete's short-term departure he would also likely them to be comfortable pushing further forward.

"I would say that we're still looking for a six, who can become an eight," Mowbray said.

"When you play against a team who has two sitting midfielders, we can push one of ours on and at the moment we do that with Dan Neil. We sit Corry and Dan and if they play two sitters, Dan can push on.

"So we want that flexibility of one who can play deeper but also a bit higher if required."

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As reported by ExWHUEmployee and Alan Nixon, West Ham United midfielder Pierre Ekwah is a potential target. Ekwah has been unable to regularly break into the first-team fold and so is a player whose potential availability is being monitored.

While Sunderland will add to their midfield ranks this month - they also want to ensure there are opportunities for Abdoullah Ba and Edouard Michut to impress.

AND WHAT ABOUT UP FRONT?

Sunderland are in the long-term looking to add to their forward ranks with a young player who they can develop over time, similar to the rise of Ross Stewart over the last two years. They are assessing their options and would like to do it in this window if possible.

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What they may also look to do in the interim is bring in a player on loan who they believe they can make an immediate impact.

Mowbray gave good insight on this last week, saying: "I think both [permanent and loans] are appropriate. We do need to try and sign our own players but to help our situation a loan isn't a bad option either.

"I do think the priority is to sign footballers that we think are the right quality to help the club going forward, because loans obviously go back to their parent clubs.

"This is why the policy of signing young players fits in really. If you bring a loan player and he's the man for now alongside Ross, potentially the younger one gets game time off the bench and you filter him in.

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"If the loan goes back at the end of the season then you've got a young player who's had six months integrated into the club and for the next season is ready to hit the ground running."

Of course, the ideal scenario would be the return of Ellis Simms.

SO IS THAT LIKELY?

It remains a strong possibility. Having been brought off the bench by Frank Lampard since returning to Goodison Park, Simms can now play for no other club than Sunderland or Everton this season.

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The Blues are known to be looking for further striking reinforcements in the current window, with Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata the latest to be linked. If they were able to strengthen, there's every chance Simms would be allowed to go back out on loan.

It would be perfect for Sunderland - given Simms is already integrated into the group and could hit the ground running.

However, the situation is clearly volatile at Goodison Park and Mowbray has urged Sunderland to press on and ensure they aren't left short if Simms does stay. If the right option comes up before Simms' future is resolved - he wants the club to go for it.

CAN WE EXPECT MORE OUTGOINGS AT SUNDERLAND?

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Potentially, but nothing major is expected at this stage.

Mowbray said shortly before Matete's departure that there were talks over 'one or two' senior players leaving on loan. He has since said that he's minded to keep Niall.

Huggins, primarily because he offers versatility across two flanks and additionally because he feels he can manage his game time well after so long out.

Leon Dajaku has struggled for regular football but otherwise, Sunderland have a small squad and not much room for sanctioning departures.

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Only a huge bid for a player would change things, but as we stand there's been no indication of that materialising.