Premier League season preview: Sunderland - predicted finish 14th

Connor Wickham will lead the line. Photo: PA

Transfers

Ins: Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, Undisclosed), Jordi Gómez (Wigan Athletic), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City) Jack Rodwell (Undisclosed), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, Loan)

Outs: Ignacio Scocco (Newell's Old Boys, £2.1m), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City), Jack Colback (Newcastle United), Craig Gardner (West Bromwich Albion), Billy Knott (Bradford City), John Egan (Gillingham), Kieren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Louis Laing (Nottingham Forest), Reece Noble (Durham City), Jordan Pickford (Bradford City, Loan) Carlos Cuéllar, Andrea Dossena, Jordan Laidler, Alejandro Rodriguez Gorrin, Oscar Ustari, David Vaughan, Jordan Watson (All released)

Predicted Finish - 14

Sunderland are a difficult club to predict. They seemed destined for the Championship last season, only for their Great Escape to rival Steve McQueen vaulting a fence on a motor bike as the best ever.

They have unquestioned talent in their ranks. Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and now Jack Rodwell all have the ability to be match-winners on their day. The issue remains how consistently they can perform. Johnson certainly seemed fitter and sharper last season, and will be required to match if not better his form from last season.

With that said i think the club will stay up and finish comfortably in 14th position. Gus Poyet has now had almost a year to work with his squad, and there were certainly moments last season that suggested his teachings were starting to be ingested by the squad. If he adds further quality between now and September 1st, then they could make a push for 10th.

Will Buckley
Will Buckley has impressed in the Championship. Credit: PA

Verdict on signings

The narrative for Sunderland last season was their number of new signings. 14 new faces jetted in from around the world to pitch up at the Stadium of Light and it ultimately proved too much. There was language issues and understandably players needed time to adjust.

It seems the club have learned their lesson this time around and have instead opted to shop locally. Signing Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez on free transfers, it’s telling that all of Sunderland’s new faces have sampled the Premier League at some stage of their career.

Finally adding a left-back to their squad in the shape of Patrick van Aanholt, Lee Congerton deserves credit for manoeuvring the club through a difficult post-World Cup transfer window. However, with the club still chasing Fabio Borini a conclusion on the situation is needed imminently, so that if needed, the club can move on to other targets. Will Buckley will add extra variety on the wings, too.

Also still with some players to move on, including Cabral and Modibo Diakite, the club have done well to begin rebuilding the squad and addressing the issues of last summer.

Jack Rodwell
Jack Rodwell is at Sunderland to show his quality. Credit: PA

One to watch

Jack Rodwell - A statement signing from Sunderland and Sporting Director Lee Congerton, Rodwell’s arrival brings up a complex situation that can be interpreted a number of ways.

At just 23, he is a young player that has already been capped by England and played at an incredibly high level. However nagging injury doubts refuse to go away, despite claims that the midfielder was fit for the majority of last season.

Impressing on his Sunderland debut against Real Betis, a fit Jack Rodwell represents exactly what Sunderland have needed in the middle of the park. Athletic, and comfortable on the ball, the former Everton man described himself as a ‘box-to-box midfielder’ when speaking to the club’s official website.

Potentially a fantastic signing for Sunderland, Rodwell was understandably not cheap at £10million. If he avoids the injury curse from earlier in his career, there is a strong chance he could be the fulcrum of Sunderland’s side and help deliver a much better campaign than the previous one.

Gus Poyet
Gus Poyet will be looking to have a calmer season. Credit: PA

Manager

Gus Poyet’s first season at Sunderland was undoubtedly a roller coaster of emotions. A League Cup final appearance was cast alongside doing the double over Newcastle and narrowly surviving the threat of relegation.

However stability must now reign at Sunderland. The club have seen a number of revolutions proposed by a number of different managers. Poyet seems the first of those men to actually have a plan that can be implemented across the club over the long term. Fans are willing to be patient with him because of that fact, but there are also tentative worries in attack. Steven Fletcher has proved unreliable, and Jozy Altidore endured a nightmare first campaign.

However with more preparation time granted to Poyet this season, I expect a better beginning to the season from Sunderland than last year under Paolo Di Canio.