The crucial Sunderland transfer decision which has saved the club huge fee

When Sunderland were weighing up which positions they needed to strengthen during the summer transfer window, it was clear they needed to sign at least one new goalkeeper.

The departures of Thorben Hoffmann and Lee Burge meant Anthony Patterson was the club’s only senior option between the sticks.

Would the 22-year-old, who just six months earlier was playing in the National League for Notts County, be ready for the Championship?

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While there was talk of Sunderland trying to sign a more experienced goalkeeper, the club placed their faith in Patterson while handing him a new long-term deal until the summer of 2026.

Anthony Patterson tips a shot over the bar during Sunderland's Championship match against Preston. Picture by FRANK REID

So far it’s a move which has paid off.

Alex Bass was signed for a small fee from Portsmouth and has acted as back-up for Patterson for the opening 20 league games of the 2021/22 campaign.

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If Sunderland had looked to sign another first-choice keeper during the summer, it’s likely a move would have required at least a six-figure transfer fee and more money on wages.

Yet, with nearly half the season gone, Patterson has to this point justified the club’s faith in him, while showing improvements in his game.

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According to Wyscout, the Sunderland stopper is ranked fifth in the Championship when it comes to goals prevented by keepers this season.

Patterson has also demonstrated excellent reflexes and is ranked second (behind Burnley’s Arijanet Muric) when it comes to shots saved from near distances.

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Clearly there are still areas where Patterson can improve, though his confidence when coming for crosses has noticeably improved since a tough game at Wycombe back in January.

According to fbref, Patterson has a total shot/save percentage of 68.1%, which means he is ranked 13th in the Championship for keepers who have played ten games or more this term.

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That figure obviously depends on the quality of chances teams are creating. Significantly for Patterson, though, Sunderland’s expected goals against figure (via Wyscout) of 27.12 is lower than the 23 goals they have actually conceded.

That suggests that Patterson is overperforming when taking into account the chances opponents are creating.

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While Sunderland appeared to leave themselves short of options in some areas of the pitch, their confidence in Patterson is looking like a commendable decision, even if there will be tougher tests to come.