SAFC: Can Chris Coleman Steady the Sinking Ship?
Written by Scott McGerty on 27th January 2018
We’re approaching the end January 2018 and as Sunderland once again find themselves in the relegation zone, an all too familiar place – Ryan Smith looks at what the rest of 2018 has in store for Sunderland AFC.
However, this time the Black Cats are fighting in the relegation zone of the Championship and are dicing with another potential relegation. If it happens, it would be the second one in successive seasons.
The Arrival of Chris Coleman
Following the sacking of Simon Grayson at the end of October, the man who had led Wales to the Euro 2016 semi-finals was announced as the favourite to take the job – step forward Chris Coleman. For the 12th time in the last ten years, Sunderland began life under a new manager and again, the main task was to ensure survival in the league.
Coleman has showed glimmers of hope with his second game in charge was away to fellow strugglers Burton Albion and having won 2-0 it was the first game Sunderland had won since August and the first clean sheet of the season. While in December, a 1-0 home win over Fulham, ended a miserable record for Sunderland having gone a full calendar year without a home win.
Strengthen the Defence
An area which Coleman could potentially look at will be his goalkeeping options. Since arriving in the summer, both Jason Steele and Robbin Ruiter have not filled Sunderland fans with confidence. A new goalkeeper is needed, but may not be top of Coleman’s wish list, given the lack of money that will be invested in the club, fans may have to make do with Ruiter and Steele for the remainder of the season.
It is defensively where Sunderland are lacking. Loan signings of Brendan Gallaway and Tyias Browning from Everton in the summer were aiming to ease the defensive duties. Browning has came into his own over the last few months however Galloway is yet to make an impact at the Stadium of Light.
Lamine Kone is another defender who hasn’t seen much action this season. It is no secret that Kone wants to leave the club and it will be surprising if he is still a Sunderland player at the end of January.
It is clear that Sunderland need to sure up their defence and looking to improve the defensive should be the number one priority for Chris Coleman in the January transfer window.
Options in the Middle
At the start of the season it looked like the midfield would be fine. It was expected that players such as Lee Cattermole and Duncan Watmore would set the Championship. Cattermole has hugely underperformed this season and Watmore has picked up another season long injury.
Academy graduates George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch have been the main stars for the Black Cats throughout the midfield, however there is a lack of experience to go alongside them. Aiden McGeady signed in the summer and looked to be a positive addition to the squad. Patience with him is wearing thin and has dropped to the bench in some fixtures under Coleman.
The new Sunderland manager could turn to youngster Ben Woodburn a possible loan signing from Liverpool. Coleman gave him his international debut and obviously rates the player. Jurgen Klopp could see Wearside as a possible option for the youngster to be allowed to go out and develop.
Improvements Up Front
It has known for many years that Sunderland lack goals. They never seem to have recovered from losing Darren Bent who was the last striker in a Sunderland shirt to get over the 20 goals in a season mark.
Loan signing Lewis Grabban has now returned to his parent club Bournemouth and Sunderland are now without a consistent goal scorer. James Vaughn is very inconsistent with his performances and does not look to be a goal threat.
Youngsters Josh Maja and Joel Asoro featured heavily in preseason under Grayson yet never featured in the league. Both have been given substitute appearances under Coleman, with Maja scoring the winner on his debut against Fulham. Both look to be promising young talents, however it would be a huge ask to rely on them to provide the goals for Sunderland. Given that Grabban has left, Coleman desperately needs to improve his striking options and a striker is now priority.
It is impossible to answer if Sunderland will remain in the Championship at the end of the season. Financially the club cannot afford another relegation. The rest of this transfer window will be the key for the Black Cats, they need to recruit and recruit well.
Images from PA/PA Wire & Sunderland AFC/safc.com