Martin O’Neill has a very-clear signing policy, which is to get British players first and foremost, ideally those with Premier League experience but he has dabbled in the Scottish market too. Sunderland seem to be able to pull together good amounts of money every transfer window, which is important considering how much more expensive it is to buy players domestically than from abroad. They will spend a lot if they find players O’Neill wants. The likes of Fletcher, Graham and Johnson have been bought for the top end of their value. O’Neill is an attractive manager for players and they have been willing to go to Sunderland for a good few years. They seem to be able to sign players from most teams in the league, particularly teams that usually hang around the bottom half of the table. With this in mind, who will they be looking at this summer?
Robert Snodgrass – Norwich
Scout Report Snodgrass has proven to be one of the shrewdest purchases of the summer 2012 window, not just for Norwich, but across the league. In his first season in the top flight he has looked like a natural, chipping in with four goals and four assists in the league from the right wing. He is skilful, technically exemplary and offers a direct threat. He is very creative and has often been the main flair player for Norwich this year.
Where does he fit? Sunderland have a chronic lack of creativity. Only Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon offer anything even approaching flair. Johnson hasn’t been very good this year though, he hasn’t been able to impose himself on games like he did at Manchester City now that he is the main man. Sessegnon has been wretchedly inconsistent, but more often than not he’s been ineffective. So much so that he has been shifted out wide where he has had less impact. Snodgrass could play on one wing with whoever is in form on the other.
How much? Norwich aren’t a club that can turn down big offers so something in the £6-8m region would be about right.
James McCarthy – Wigan
Scout Report McCarthy is a footballing central midfielder who is a good and imaginative passer of the ball. At just 22 he has plenty of potential yet to unlock. He is an excellent technician and now needs to add goals and assists to his game to take him to the next level.
Where does he fit? Sunderland have a bunch of plodders and workmen in the middle of their midfield. The likes of Larsson, Gardner and Colback are bits and pieces type players, none of them capable of passing the ball dangerously or creating something for the attackers. McCarthy would add something completely different to that. Sunderland have enough grit, they need some sparkle.
How much? Wigan will always sell and £5-6m would be good for both teams.
Gary Mackay-Steven – Dundee United
Scout Report Mackay-Steven is a flair-loaded attacking player capable of playing in any of the forward positions. He is fleet footed and well balanced and is now adding end product to his general threat having picked up four goals and four assists this season. He is raw, but capable of the unexpected.
Where does he fit? Sunderland’s attacking pattern is so obvious that every team they face knows how to shut it down. If the old, pass it wide, do a few step overs, cross aimlessly, doesn’t work they don’t have anything else to offer. Mackay-Steven would be an X-Factor; able to unlock defences with a jinking run or a bit of trickery. He might be frustrating and not as hard a worker as O’Neill likes but so was Ashley Young at Villa and he did OK for him.
How much? He would be a snip at around £1-2m.
Yannick Bolasie – Crystal Palace
Scout Report Bolasie has good versatility, able to operate near enough anywhere in midfield or attack. He is a real physical specimen, big, strong and quick, unusually so for the positions he operates in. He has a long languid style and looks disarmingly relaxed on the field. However, when he gets the ball at his feet he either runs straight at his opponents are finds a direct pass. He can score and make goals.
Where does he fit? Sunderland don’t really have any pure athletes in their attack. Bolasie is an all round package in that respect. He can operate in so many different positions, a useful asset for making the first team at a club with a small squad, and brings something the club don’t currently have. He could offer a real change of pace and a new angle of attack.
How much? Not for sale if Palace go up but if they don’t it would be hard for them to resist £3-4m, even with the Zaha money.
Sascha Riether – FC Koln
Scout Report Riether has shown on loan at Fulham that he is very much a Premier League full back. He is tactically sound, works hard and is capable of picking a pass when he ventures forward.
Where does he fit? Sunderland’s defence has been a revolving door this season. They have been particularly unsettled at full back where they have recently been deploying two central midfielders. They need a full back that they can just leave to get on with it, and Riether would be ideal for that. O’Neill can put him in and not worry about him whilst he tries to fix the attack.
How much? They would be bidding against Fulham in the £3m range.
You can read more by Max at the thefootballspace.com