Sunderland need a physical presence in midfield – who would fit the bill?

With the transfer window closing in seven days, Graeme Atkinson takes a look at where Sunderland's attentions should turn next

While for some of us it may feel like January 64th, there is just one week to go until the transfer window closes.

Away from all of the Defoe noise, the club’s recruitment team should now be utilising the time left to focus on targeting a big unit of a defensive midfielder. For if there is one gaping hole left in the squad, it is a real physical specimen to help strengthen and solidify the team in the middle of the park.

Yes, in Corry Evans and Carl Winchester we have players who can sit and protect the back line. Both are comfortable with the ball at their feet. Both are able to be somewhat of a calming influence at times too, but neither have what you would call ‘presence’ on the pitch. In Evans he is not able to guarantee us a run of games either, due to his propensity to sustain injuries regularly. Instead, we need someone who is not easily bullied, someone with height and power, who wins tackles for breakfast and is simply adept at just passing the ball to the more creative players.

The Black Cats have lacked a real physical presence in midfield for eons. Frankly, it is about time this was addressed. With Hoffmann between the sticks, the recent arrival of Danny Batth and Ross Stewart already established, a player of this ilk would also help further strengthen the spine of the team.

Perhaps not since Jan Kirchhoff has Sunderland had such a midfielder. And, it is someone in that blueprint the squad now needs to help push the club on in the latter half of the season. Admittedly, Kirchhoff could play a bit as well. For a League One midfielder it is likely, on the checklist of attributes, that particular box would remain un-ticked. Yet, being skilful on the ball is not an essential requirement for any potential arrival in this role, given the skillset of those already in the squad.

So, is it likely Sunderland will sign someone in this mould during the remaining time?

The Black Cats have been linked with dozens of players thus far during the January transfer window. If this is any indicator, none have matched this description. Obviously that is not to say that the club are not capable of pulling off a surprise transfer. Batth’s arrival is testament to that. It is one that came from nowhere and no one truly knows what is happening behind the scenes.

If we were plucking names out of the thin air could we possibly tempt Derby County to loan us Krystian Bielik?

Sunderland supporters may remember him as the man of the match in our 2019 Play Off final defeat to Charlton at Wembley. At 6ft 2inches he certainly has the height. He is capable of playing in either defence (as he did at Wembley) as well as defensive midfield and has predominantly had spells on loan in both Championship and League One having initially arrived from his native Poland to join Arsenal.

Derby reportedly signed Bielik for £10mil in 2019 and manager Wayne Rooney was just beginning to get the best out of him when the Polish international suffered a serious knee injury – the second of his career. Returning to fitness now, is this the opportunity for Sunderland to take a chance on a player clearly capable of competing and excelling in League One?

It could certainly be a deal that works for all parties at this moment in time. It helps their player to return to full fitness, easing their financial pressures in the process by having us pay a portion of his wages and in turn it supports the Lads’ own promotion push by filling a gap in our squad.

All of this is not to say that another striker would not also be welcome but if we could only bring in one further addition it is defensive midfield where Kristjaan Speakman should now focus most of his attention.