Friday, 30 December 2011

Martin O'Neill and January

January is just around the corner and that, of course, means the English transfer window is reopening and teams can trade players once again. It's the perfect chance for managers to freshen up their squads after observing half of the season. Teams will be looking to strengthen for different reasons, whether that be to launch a second half revival and secure Premier League status for another year, or whether it's to have one final push for the title. Martin O'Neill's Sunderland, however, will be looking to get their season back on track and try to salvage another top ten finish.

O'Neill has inherited a squad that hasn't lived up to early expectations to say the least, and January is now his chance to bring in a few of his own players and with a bit of luck, strengthen the areas his predecessor failed to do so. Most Sunderland fans will know this is the left hand-side in particular. We have players that 'can do a job' or are 'solid', but to push on and achieve our short and long term ambitions, we need to have players in every position that can be better than just mediocre. Unfortunately, at times, our fans seem to settle for hard working players with little skill. That isn't a criticism of this type of player, either, however effort doesn't bring success on its own I'm afraid.

That said, I think we need a minimum of three players in January. First off, I think the first half of the season has taught us many things, one being that we can't score for toffee and this will need to be addressed with a new frontman, someone, dare I say it, like our mate Darren Bent; the man that left us a year this month. Despite having four forwards at the club, there isn't anyone that screams 'clinical finisher' at you. A recognised left-back should be on Mr. O'Neill's shopping list, too. Someone who you can look down your squad list at and know exactly where he'll be playing. Not a Richardson, a Bardsley or an O'Shea (and most certainly not a George McCartney), these players all have natural positions and left-back isn't it. Least importantly I still think we need an extra centre half just to make sure, having said that though, O'Neill's comments this week suggest he may not have ruled out forgotten boy Matt Kilgallon and Sunderland veteran Nyron Nosworthy. We know these players aren't good enough, though, and another centre-half would be a welcome addition. I mentioned before that the whole left side needed sorting, and although that is true to an extent I think Richardson is more than capable of playing left-wing with McClean looking like a promising prospect too. I'd still like to see a natural left sided midfielder through the door come January 31st.

In the meantime though, Sunderland have started recovering already. O'Neill is now four games into his reign on Wearside and seven points from a possible twelve is a decent return, especially when you take into account an away game at third placed Spurs, a trip to Loftus Road and a tough fixture against our nemesis (Everton, of course). There's still plenty more hard work to do but faith has been restored around the Stadium of Light and things are looking up for once, in Martin we trust.