Sunderland surprised everyone by achieving a top six finish in the 2022/23 season, and now they’ve set the bar high for the upcoming Championship campaign.
Tony Mowbray will have learned a lot about this Sunderland side in the past nine months or so. He’s learned that the side is full of talent and potential but also that the side is lacking a bit of physicality – a common theme for Sunderland this season and something that Mowbray suggested after his side’s play-off exit v Luton Town.
But under the new ownership, Sunderland look ready to spend well again this summer, and here we look at what the Black Cats’ ideal starting XI might look like going into next season…
Over the weekend, reports emerged suggesting that Sunderland are bracing themselves for summer interest in some of their key players, and that some could be sold with Dan Neil, Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke, and Anthony Patterson being name-checked.
With that in mind then, Sunderland could have a few gaps in their starting XI to fill this summer. Patterson seems like he could be one of the more likelier departures given his links to the Premier League this season, and he’d certainly need replacing if he’s sold.
Elsewhere, Mowbray will surely be keen to bolster his defence after injuries plagued his side this season. But he already has a solid back-four when everyone is fit and so the defensive additions we might see this summer could be back-up additions – right-back might be the one position that needs properly investing in, with the likes of Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch often filling in.
Expect Mowbray to sign a new central midfielder this summer – one who can add some physicality to the Sunderland XI and provide some more like-for-like cover for Corry Evans. Amad Diallo is certainly going to need replacing too, especially if Roberts is moved on this summer ahead of his 2024 contract expiry.
And the obvious position that needs bolstering this summer is in attack. Ross Stewart remains a valuable asset for the club but he needs cover, especially so with the Scot constantly attracting transfer interest.
So if Mowbray can get his summer transfer business done early, bring in some added cover in certain positions and add some strength to his ranks, then Sunderland could certainly be challenging for the play-offs again next season.