With the pressure of the Premier League season opener in the rear view mirror Sunderland will be looking to build on what was a very solid start. Although it was only one game, a good performance against what should have been a considerably better Arsenal side cannot be ignored. But with a week remaining of the transfer window, Martin O’Neill may still consider strengthen his defence.
The Black Cats backline has been a bright spot over the last couple of years. Judging from the first game of the season, this campaign promises to feature more of what has become a sometimes impenetrable brick wall.
At right-back, Phil Bardsley and Wes Brown are the two players that naturally play this position although Craig Gardner and John O’ Shea can fill in at times. Bardsley however is the incumbent and a very good one. He is a consistent performer who tackles well, gets up and down the field and can cross the ball with accuracy. With Brown and Gardner providing cover, acquiring a right-back is not a priority for this transfer window.
Centre-back is another area of strength for the Mackems even with the loss of Michael Turner. As was evident in the season opener, the signing of Carlos Cuellar will allow Sunderland to continue to provide resistance against the best in the Premier League. Cuellar showed the grit and sacrificial nature that made him a favorite of O’Neill’s when they were at Aston Villa. But John O’Shea’s experience makes him a front runner for a weekly starting position with Titus Bramble and Matt Kilgallon providing stern competition. No need to waste precious transfer funds on a position of strength.
The left-back position on the other hand is one of serious concern for Sunderland fans, especially with the impending departure of Kieran Richardson. Richardson, a left winger turn left-back, did an admirable job against Arsenal on opening day but has had his struggles in the past trying to make that position his own. Even if he stayed there would be need for a long-term solution at this position.
In terms of options, there have been numerous reports of Tottenham’s Danny Rose coming on loan as well as a potential long-term solution in Ivan Strinic from Ukranian side Dnipro. Even Blackburn’s Martin Olsson and Villa’s Stephen Warnock are reported to be in the mix. Fans will agree that not only one, but any two of the above names will suffice as the club looks to fill this major hole.
All in all Sunderland’s defence looks pretty solid, with left-back being the only area of major concern, but there are a number of solid and attractive options available to the manager. With news of Steven Fletcher almost on-board and potentially a loan spell for John Guidetti and Jemaine Jenas, Sunderland have also begun to strengthen further forward. But the options available to O’Neill in midfield and attack can stand further scrutiny with the transfer window open a little while yet.
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