Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill ready to enter transfer market
Sunderland's recent mini-revival will not stop manager Martin O'Neill from getting involved in the January transfer window, with the Stadium of Light boss revealing there will be new faces arriving next month to bolster his squad.
Some familiar names have been linked, with a striker expected to be the most likely arrival given Sunderland's struggle in front of goal and over reliance on summer-signing Steven Fletcher finding the net.
But there is also the need to add a dominating midfield enforcer with captain Lee Cattermole sidelined for a significant period of time because of a knee injury, and his fellow central players unable to grab a game by the scruff of the neck.
Reinforcements are also required to a defence which seems to have a dual personality—brilliant one day, woeful the next.
Although calls have been made for a centre-back to be signed, it is the full-back areas O'Neill will be most concerned with.
Craig Gardner has spent most of the season playing at right-back rather than in his preferred midfield role, and left-back Danny Rose's performances on loan from Tottenham have alerted bigger clubs to his talents, including Liverpool. He could yet become a permanent addition, but Sunderland face a fight for his signature.
The list of O'Neill's rumoured January targets is getting longer by the day as the window approaches, but here we take a look at five players he should avoid signing in the January transfer window.
Former Sunderland striker Darren Bent linked with return to the Stadium of Light
The need to sign a striker has resulted in the merits of a bid for former Sunderland goalscorer
Bent being hotly debated amongst supporters.
But Sunderland fans would be angered by the return of a player who departed the Stadium of Light in controversial circumstances for "bigger and better" things, which he has yet to find at Villa.
Undoubtedly capable of the goals Sunderland need, he would effectively come cheap with Villa yet to pay all of his £24 million transfer fee.
But O'Neill's preference to play one forward would bring into question how Fletcher and Bent could play in the same side, and the manager's huge popularity with the fans would be hit somewhat if he brought back a hated figure to the northeast.
John Guidetti in action in Holland with Feyenoord
Clearly talented, as shown by his exploits when on loan in the Dutch Eredivisie at Feyenoord where he scored 20 times in 23 appearances, Guidetti could well add a natural goalscoring instinct to O'Neill's squad.
But the Swede is unproven in the EPL and realistically is going to warm the bench and make bit-part appearances this season. Connor Wickham is already doing that role, at times making an impact, and it makes no sense to add Guidetti to the squad during this window.
Will Hughes in action for Derby
One of the most sought-after players this window, Derby County’s 17-year-old midfielder is the type of player Sunderland need—someone comfortable on the ball and capable of injecting pace into attacks from central midfield.
But despite his style being a good fit, Sunderland shouldn’t be one of the clubs trying to sign him. Gambles on talented young Championship players haven’t paid off in the past, and Hughes’ fellow England under-21 international Wickham, who has a very similar profile to the Derby youngster, remains only a fringe player at the Stadium of Light a year and a half after arriving.
O’Neill’s preference to field-experienced EPL performers would work against Hughes’ development.
Out of favour Arsenal midfielder Andrey Arshavin to leave The Emirates
Arsenal’s diminutive Russian midfield playmaker is available in the January transfer window after being deemed surplus to requirements and naturally comes into the equation for any club looking for midfield reinforcements.
But he is not the type of midfielder required by Sunderland. O’Neill needs a tough-tackling, box-to-box player, and as valuable as Arshavin would be in terms of a transfer fee, he is not the right man for the job.
Arshavin is too similar to Sunderland’s own playmaker Stephane Sessegnon, who does his best work in free areas, is not quick enough to play in a wide area and simply wouldn’t work in O’Neill’s formation and tactical plan, which is heavily based on hard workers.
Celtic goalscorer Gary Hooper has been linked with a move to Sunderland
Hooper is the man most linked with joining Sunderland in January, according to The Mirror, and the Celtic forward’s goalscoring success in the Scottish Premier League shows no sign off stopping, but it must be remembered that those goals have come in a league his team has dominated.
Hooper will command a high-enough fee for what he has achieved, and like other attacking transfer targets, he is unlikely to play week-in week-out with Fletcher as a lone striker in the Sunderland formation.
Hooper has never played in the EPL—he has only ever had a season and a half in the Championship, as he played in the lower leagues prior to that—and a hefty price tag certainly means there is better value for money elsewhere.