Where should Poyet look to strengthen next month - and who might the Sunderland manager sign?

The Advertiser Series: THINKING TIME: Gustavo Poyet is pondering who to pursue as he looks to improve his Sunderland squad during next month's transfer window THINKING TIME: Gustavo Poyet is pondering who to pursue as he looks to improve his Sunderland squad during next month's transfer window

In the wake of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham, Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet confirmed his intention to make significant changes during next month’s transfer window. With the Black Cats five points adrift of all of their Premier League rivals, Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson looks at where Poyet should be focusing his efforts

GOALKEEPERS

Given that they have conceded an average of two goals a game this season, it is easy to assume that Sunderland’s goalkeepers have struggled.

In fact, both Keiren Westwood and Vito Mannone have performed reasonably well when called upon and it is hard to imagine Poyet signing a third senior shot-stopper next month.

The Advertiser Series: Vito Mannone

The position could change if Westwood was to push for a move having dropped below Mannone in the pecking order, and having grown increasingly unhappy at playing second fiddle to Simon Mignolet, the Republic of Ireland international can hardly be happy about the current situation.

Nevertheless, having inherited two experienced goalkeepers when he arrived on Wearside two months ago, Poyet has more pressing concerns in other areas of the field.

Potential Targets: None

DEFENDERS

Sunderland’s defence is arguably the weakest part of the team at the moment, and therefore it is the area that most urgently needs addressing when the transfer window reopens.

John O’Shea and Wes Brown form the Black Cats’ first-choice centre-half pairing, and both have produced fleeting moments of class this term. Poyet seems to rate both players, but below them, the cupboard is largely bare.

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Carlos Cuellar, Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite have all dropped out of contention in the last few months, and the recruitment of an experienced central defender is surely a must.

There is also a strong likelihood of a new full-back arriving, with Poyet having bemoaned his lack of options in the wide defensive positions on a number of occasions.

Sunderland boast two natural right-backs in the shape of Phil Bardsley and Ondrej Celustka, but only one player, Andrea Dossena, whose natural position is on the left of a back four. Given that Poyet regards Jack Colback as a midfielder rather than a defender, the purchase of a left-back is another January priority.

Potential Targets: Paolo De Ceglie (Juventus), Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Younes Kaboul (Tottenham)

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS

Sunderland boast plenty of players who can play at the heart of midfield, but none has made a compelling case for their inclusion in the first four months of the season.

Poyet likes to play with a deep-lying midfielder stationed in front of the back four, and on the evidence of the last month, he clearly regards Ki Sung-Yeung as a better bet than Lee Cattermole.

The South Korean has been one of Sunderland’s better players since Poyet replaced Paolo Di Canio, but the Black Cats boss built his Brighton side around Liam Bridcutt, and it would be no surprise to see him trying to lure the 24-year-old to the Stadium of Light.

The Advertiser Series: Liam Bridcutt

Ahead of Ki, the likes of Colback, Craig Gardner, Seb Larsson and David Vaughan have been battling for a place in the side, but Sunderland have suffered from a chronic lack of creativity that none of their central midfielders looks capable of addressing.

If Poyet comes away with just one thing from the January window, it surely has to be a midfield play-maker who is capable of scoring goals and creating chances for the forwards in front of him. The key problem, however, is that such a player will not come cheap.

Potential Targets: Liam Bridcutt (Brighton), Alex Mowatt (Leeds), Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea)

WIDE MIDFIELDERS

Poyet likes his sides to play with plenty of width, and along with goalkeeper, the wide positions are the areas of the field where Sunderland are reasonably well stocked.

Most of Poyet’s team selections have seen Adam Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherini lining up on the flanks, and the pair are able to swap wings to pose a different threat by cutting inside.

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Fabio Borini made an immediate impact when he came off the bench in the Wear-Tyne derby, and after struggling to make an impression under Di Canio, the Liverpool loanee has been involved in Sunderland’s last eight league games.

With summer signings Charis Mavrias and Duncan Watmore also looking for an opportunity in a wide berth, it would be a surprise to see Poyet squandering some of his limited budget on a winger next month.

Potential Targets: None

ATTACKERS

Sunderland have failed to score in five of their 15 league games, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that a new centre-forward will feature prominently on Poyet’s January wish list.

Steven Fletcher has failed to rediscover his form from last season – partially, no doubt, because his various injury concerns prevented him from having a pre-season programme – while Jozy Altidore’s prodigious work rate is insufficient to atone for his lack of goals.

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Beyond that? Borini can play up front if required, and there is always Ji Dong-won, but it is hard to see Sunderland’s position improving unless they invest significantly in their attacking ranks.

January is a notoriously difficult month in which to sign a striker though, and none of the Black Cats’ relegation rivals will be keen to sell a potential goalscorer.

Looking abroad will probably be the best option, but as last summer proved, it cannot be assumed that players will arrive from overseas and hit the ground running straight away.

Potential Targets: Aaron Hunt (Werder Bremen), Ola Toivonen (PSV Eindhoven), Leonardo Ulloa (Brighton)

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