In recent seasons, Sunderland have continuously improved their position in the league table. Under the management of Steve Bruce, the Black Cats have shaken the shackles of relegation and have now become one of the Premier League’s more established teams. Over the past three seasons, Sunderland have climbed from 16th (36 points) to 13th (44 points) to 10th (47 points). I see a pattern emerging here. So, can Sunderland reach the new heights of 7th next year? Possibly.
With nearly a month gone in the transfer window, Sunderland’s transfer activity has been bustling. The money from the sales of Darren Bent and, more recently, Jordan Henderson have enabled Sunderland to cannon-ball rather than dip their toes in the transfer pool. Consequently, Sunderland have snapped up nine new players to the delight of Steve Bruce. The manager believes the team is improving by stating, “We have used the money wisely, investing it in making the team and the club stronger and better.”
Squad additions have been necessary at Sunderland, because it was a lengthy injury list that hindered their Premier League campaign last season. Yet, the team still rallied to finish 10th, which is a very respectable position. However, now that Sunderland have more squad depth, they should be able to push for a higher position in the upcoming season. Quantity has been added to the quality.
The idea of Sunderland finishing in the top eight may seem to some like pushing a boundary. In order to even approach this boundary, having experienced players on your side is fundamental. Therefore, the signings of Wes Brown and John O’Shea from Manchester United should be well received by Sunderland fans. Obtaining these two Premier League winning defenders clearly shows that Steve Bruce intends to move Sunderland past their closest rivals. As long as these two defenders remain fit, the Black Cats should have a more formidable defence.
Furthermore, Sebastian Larsson (another new arrival) has expressed his satisfaction at the signings stating, “I was one of the first to sign, and it’s been nice to see that the club has been able to attract players like O’Shea and Brown.” The set piece specialist even believes that Sunderland could break the status quo of the ‘Top Six’. Ultimately, this would require a herculean effort (and probably a stroke of luck) from the Sunderland team.
However, it is goals that win games. Therefore, in my opinion, Sunderland need another striker. The signing of Connor Wickham is a great coup and, according to Steve Bruce, he has “bags of potential.” Nevertheless, the boss also concedes that that the deal has brought an element of risk. The ‘next Alan Shearer’ has never played in the Premier League and there is pressure on him to succeed.
Furthermore, Asamoah Gyan’s venture into another industry is hardly music to the fans’ ears. Nevertheless, Gyan affirms that his focus is on football. Sunderland fans will certainly be hoping that he can spearhead the attack and improve his finishing. Ten goals in your debut season isn’t bad, but there will certainly be more weight on his shoulders if he is to be the target man.
Therefore, maybe adding an experienced striker to the ranks could help spread responsibility further and achieve the goals for the 2011/12 season. Luckily for Sunderland fans, Steve Bruce hasn’t decided to put an end to the summer spree just yet.
Additionally, in order to, perhaps, punch above your weight, a winning mentality must be instilled in the players. However, Craig Gardner, who was signed from relegated Birmingham City, has confidence in his new teammates believing that they are ready to do battle. He states, “I’m sure the lads here have that never-say-die attitude and we will crack on this year.”
In conclusion, all seems bright at the Stadium of Light. Steve Bruce has freely operated in the transfer market, which has resulted in a more balanced squad. Consequently, this could enable the squad to keep up the pace and, as long as the team remains relatively injury-free, there could definitely be an improvement on their Premier League standing of last season. In my opinion, Sunderland should sign another centre forward, but Steve Bruce is the manager and I’m not. As long as Sunderland can walk the walk, the 2011/2012 season could see Sunderland finish in the top eight.