Transfer chief reveals Sunderland summer striker plan

Kristjaan Speakman has explained why Sunderland weren’t trying to sign another striker on the final day of the transfer window – despite a lack of natural replacements for Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms.

Both Stewart and Simms were sidelined through injury for the Black Cats’ defeat at Watford, after forming a promising partnership in a 3-5-2 system during the first few weeks of the season.

Yet Speakman believes the squad has at least two options for every position, apart from at left-back, where Aji Alese, predominately a centre-back, has provided cover for Dennis Cirkin.

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“We are really happy with the squad,” the club’s Sporting Director told SAFC Unfiltered.

Sunderland Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.

“Obviously we have a small issue at the minute with Ross and Ellis both out, that draws some attention.

“For us we are more than comfortable with the group that we’ve got.

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“Our model was to design a team to play 4-3-3 that had the flexibility to play 3-4-3 and 3-5-2.

“We started off the season playing 3-5-2 but that was just down to how we felt was the best way of winning those particular games against that particular opposition. Had it been different opposition we may have started with a 4-3-3.

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“Therefore we have two players for every position, and the only position we don’t have two players for every position is at left-back, where we have Dennis and we’ve got Aji who can cover there.

“We have just been a bit unfortunate with that, but we have every faith in the other players to be able to play our identity and that is something Tony (Mowbray) is 100% onboard with.”

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Sunderland were trying to re-sign striker Nathan Broadhead, who instead signed for Wigan, during the summer, yet Speakman believes new arrival Amad Diallo and Leon Dajaku can also contribute up front.

For that reason Sunderland are unlikely to look at the free agent market before the January transfer window.

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“I think if our model was to play two up top we probably would have more numbers in that area because naturally you would be looking to play two every week,” replied Speakman when asked about not signing another striker.

“Our structure was to play one and naturally that would have been Ross, and that would have been Ellis to fight that spot out.

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“Then we also wanted some tactical flexibility and some difference in the team, so we felt that with Amad and with Leon we had that and sort of that four for two spaces.

“Naturally when you do play 4-3-3 then the natural thought is you want a bigger, stronger player at the top end of the pitch, but it doesn’t mean you have to play that way.

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“Amad played up front for Man United in pre-season in a similar shape. Leon played for us against Roma in a similar shape, and both individually in those sets of games did really, really well. We think we have enough quality.”

“The question is always going to be, we can go out tomorrow and get a No 9 but if he doesn’t get in front of Leon and doesn’t get in front of Amad there’s absolutely zero point in having him.”