Now the hero that helped engineer Sunderland’s Premier League survival has agreed to stay on beyond his initial short-term deal, the Black Cats need to ensure another scrap against the drop is avoided at all costs.
Securing Dick Advocaat as the club’s manager for the new season is a huge positive for the north-east club ahead of the 2015/16 campaign, but after both Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet’s rapid descent from elation, Mackems fans would be right to temper their celebrations.
Both the Italian and Uruguayan were out the door at the Stadium of Light less than one full season after steering the club away from relegation, so Advocaat will be wary to avoid the same fate.
The former Rangers boss said publicly before confirming his stay in the north east that he wanted six “quality” players added to his squad if he were to even think about returning this coming season, so transfer activity is to be expected.
Advocaat was meticulous in declaring that he valued quality purchases over quantity this summer, learning a valuable lesson from the desperate trolley-dash Di Canio embarked on ahead of the 2013/14 season, in which 14 players arrived.
After Sebastian Coates put pen to paper on a permanent deal earlier in the month, five new additions appear to be on the cards for the Black Cats and at least one of those needs to be a creative midfielder.
A manager as astute as Advocaat would not have glossed over the fact that Sunderland were the Premier League’s least creative side last season.
Their 304 chances came at a rate of one every 8.8 minutes, which was longer than any other side, and played a huge part in the Black Cats being the joint-lowest scorers of the surviving sides.
The squad is therefore crying out for an injection of wizardry, with space in the midfield to add a creative type to help Sebastian Larsson, who led the side by creating 58 chances.
One such player, now a free agent, is Joey Barton. The former QPR man had a strong season for the Hoops despite the club’s relegation. Barton created more chances over the course of the campaign than Steven Gerrard, Juan Mata and Aaron Ramsey, despite playing less games than each of them.
His Hoops teammates only managed to help him convert three of those chances into assists, but with finishers of Jermain Defoe’s calibre in the side, Barton should see those numbers swell should he sign on at the Stadium of Light.
While the Englishman is immediately available and would add undoubted experience and nous to the squad, there is a chance that Advocaat could be a tad more exotic in his pursuit of a midfield creator.
In that case, enquiring about a loan move for FC Porto youngster Josue Pesqueira is worth making.
The 24-year-old spent last term on loan at Turkish outfit Bursaspor and excelled. Playing predominantly as a number 10, the four-cap international made 82 key passes, according to WhoScored.com, and ended the campaign with seven assists.
There is no indication that Josue will be a first-team regular for Porto next term and the club may be willing to let him gain further experience elsewhere for another season.
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