Cautious optimism – two words to describe how I’m feeling as the August transfer window closed. In fact, cautious optimism is a decent way of describing the club’s entire business thus far.
It’s been pleasing to see Kristjaan Speakman’s recruitment plans take shape over the last few months. After a slow start his transfer manoeuvrings have seen the squad become much younger and more dynamic – both desperately needed in my opinion.
Yet, with all of the positives around the younger look, we can’t escape the fact that it brings a lack of experience and guile. We have to rely on the few older players already in the squad to bring that balance. It’s important to maintain a sense of perspective as a result. Despite a solid start from those already here, there’s also simply no way of gauging how the young lads will perform in the longer term until we see them consistently in the weeks and months to come.
Therefore, if I needed to search for a third word to add to ‘cautious’ and ‘optimism’ I think ‘potential’ would feature.
Arguably, because of that potential, Speakman has taken on a major risk in the hope of a higher return. Still, that has to be commended. On matters of recruitment, something needed to change at Sunderland and it’s evident on this window that it has. Yes, a clear transfer philosophy is in place on Wearside and it’s about watching the fruits of this unfold hoping it has some success.
Nevertheless, I’m happy with the business that has been done.
There was even room for a bonus positive note as the window *checks notes* SLAMMED SHUT! Shipping Will Grigg off to Rotherham for the rest of the season should mean he’ll never kick a ball again in a Sunderland shirt. And Jack Diamond has returned to Harrogate Town where he thrived two seasons ago, and a season in League Two will no doubt aid his development.
But Sunderland’s incomings raised eyebrows as the Black Cats’ recruitment net was cast into mainland Europe for a double signing.
Full disclosure, I know very little about each. But, both seem to follow the profile of those already brought to the club under the Sporting Director so it ticks a lot of boxes.
Ron-Thurben Hoffmann and Leon Dajaku, both from Bayern Munich and both seemingly with bags of pedigree. Again though, it’s the sense of cautious optimism that’s worth repeating.
Let’s look at Hoffmann first. Is he streets ahead of what we have? The assumption is that he will be, as reports indicate that he’ll be Number 1. But, are we basing that on the club we’re loaning him from rather than the team he’s played in more regularly in Bayern Munich II? Let’s not forget they’ve just been relegated from Germany’s third tier with Hoffmann conceding 37 in 25.
#SAFC‘s window summarised…— Chris (@christoph_21) August 31, 2021
– 10 permanent departures (av. age: 28)
– 9 in (av. age: 22)
– 4 permanent (av. age 24.5)
– 5 loans (av. age: 20.6)
Loads you can draw from it but, if nothing else, it’s a clear culture shift from what has come before
Of course, context is key, as it is with everything. Sunderland were relegated with Jordan Pickford in the side. I have no idea of the quality of those playing in front of Hoffmann and to be fair to the lad that could’ve been a major factor.
In Dajaku we’re getting a versatile forward player capable of playing out wide and through the middle. He also has 35 minutes worth of experience in the Bundesliga while he was out on loan to Hertha Berlin.
The double capture rounds off a transfer window that should be applauded. Yet, more so than any other I’m not sure we can confidently exclaim this window to be a success until we’re further into the season. This team is performing well, we’re top of the league after all, but the challenge is whether than can be sustained.
I can’t help but feel this side will take time to fully come to the boil but if we can pick up victories while it simmers then that can’t be a bad thing.