In our previous analysis of Sunderland’s transfer business so far this summer, we suggested that the Black Cats’ most important signing of the season could well be the deal that saw Dick Advocaat perform a U-turn by delaying his retirement and opting to stay on Wearside for one final season.
And as Sunderland’s recruitment drive continues apace, spearheaded by Sporting Director Lee Congerton, that argument is gaining traction as Advocaat seeks to become the first Sunderland boss in several years to directly address evident shortcomings in the first team squad.
While Paolo Di Canio overvalued passion and fitness to the detriment of group harmony, Gus Poyet’s admirable aims for a continental possession game were burdened by his failure to accept that some of his players weren’t technically good enough to execute it. But with over 35 years experience as a manager, Advocaat values a much more pragmatic, less rigid approach, and it has taken him only a few months to see what Sunderland have been lacking season-after-season.
So after bringing in proven Premier League experience in central defence (Younes Kaboul, Sebastian Coates), promising youth at full back (Adam Matthews) and pace to the flanks (Jeremain Lens), Advocaat and Congerton now have their sights firmly on adding power, height and creativity to a midfield that, while rarely lacking in desire, was often outmuscled by the Premier League’s more physical sides.
With that in mind, Yann M’Vila, come on down. The former Rennes midfielder looks set to sign from Rubin Kazan this week, ending an unhappy two years in Russia that coincided with the Frenchman losing his place in the national squad.
At just 25-years-old, M’Vila stands at 6ft and still possesses the many qualities that saw him come to prominence as one of Ligue 1’s best defensive midfielders. His strength protecting the back four should help to unshackle Lee Cattermole, whose underrated passing range could well see the Stockton lad make his own international claims this season.
Reports closer on this side of the water claim that Sunderland have also registered their interest in taking QPR’s Dutch international midfielder Leroy Fer on loan for the season. Fer stood out as the best player on the pitch when Sunderland were defeated 2-0 at home to QPR in February, and his directness will be a welcome addition to a side often guilty of pondering in the wrong areas.
It means that within days, two savvy swoops could see Sunderland’s midfield remoulded into a powerful and imposing attacking unit. With Connor Wickham expected to complete a move to Crystal Palace this week, filling the vacancy left by the gifted but frustrating young forward is likely to be Advocaat’s final summer challenge.
Should he manage to complete one of Sunderland’s canniest transfer windows in recent seasons, the relegation great escapes that have become so synonymous with the Stadium of Light should not be required this time round.
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