The 2011/2012 season did not start well for Sunderland. The loss of 2 key strikers in Danny Welbeck, who returned to Manchester United after a loan spell, and Asamoah Gyan, who was seemingly tempted by the money on offer in Qatar, after an excellent debut season left Sunderland short of quality up front. Niklas Bendtner, signed on loan from Arsenal, was brought in to rectify this. Unfortunately for Sunderland fans, ‘The Talent’ is much better in his mind, then he is on the pitch. Steve Bruce was sacked in late December as results continued to be poor, and Martin O’Neil was brought in. The effect was immediate, Stephane Sessegnon became a monster, whilst James McClean became a true bargain in FPL terms as he showed fine form, and Sunderland’s defence improved beyond recognition, keeping 10 clean sheets in their last 12 home games, a record bettered only by Manchester City
Sunderland will be hoping to build on that success this season, though finding that striker will be crucial, and reports suggest that Steven Fletcher, of relegated Wolves is the man identified. But what else can we expect?
Following the departure of Craig Gordon, Simon Mignolet looks to be nailed-on in the number 1 spot this time around. After an impressive showing last time out, including a penalty save, in an injury disrupted season, and priced at just £5 million, the Sunderland keeper looks a decent shout. But clouding the issue is new signing Carlos Cuellar. A favourite of O’Neill from his time at Aston Villa, Cuellar’s price of £4.5 million may be just too good to pass up, particularly if he can hold down a regular spot. All of Sunderland’s other first choice defenders are priced at 5, with perhaps the most interesting being Phil Bardsley, a right-back with a wicked long-distance shot, assuming of course he gets starts.
It is in midfield where Sunderland look perhaps the most interesting. Although they appear to offer plenty of options, perhaps only 3 are worth considering. He will likely start, but stay away from Lee Cattermole, the only thing you will get from him is a load of cards, mostly red, Cattermole has been sent off at least once in each of the last 3 seasons, and last season picked up 9 yellows. The most likely to start alongside him is Jack Colback. Though he has displayed no prior form, he did bag his first goal for the club at the end of last season. If he can take that one, he represents an interesting option at £5 million, as does Craig Gardner, who if he can establish himself, is a great goal-scoring midfielder.
But the 3 I am looking at are the £6.5 million valued James McClean and Seb Larsson, and £8 million priced Stephane Sessegnon. Any one of these is worthy of consideration as both McClean and Sessegnon offer goals and assists, whilst Larsson is one of the Premier League’s best set-piece takers, and may be on penalties
I would not consider any of Sunderland’s current forwards, they are not prolific enough. If the Fletcher move comes off, his price will be worth monitoring