Sunderland are set to face a crucial January transfer window that could well define whether Lee Johnson is going to be able to secure the Black Cats a return to the Championship.
The appointment of Johnson signifies a transformation in the direction that Sunderland are seeking to travel in. The former Bristol City manager is more of a progressive coach than Phil Parkinson and likes to build his sides around a high intensity and attack-minded style of play. There have already been very encouraging early signs of the impact that is having on the squad.
The Black Cats had started to alienate themselves from supporters with the style of play under Parkinson thought to be too negative and conservative. The lack of a natural goal scorer was arguably, though, the one thing that cost the former Bolton Wanderers manager his job at the Stadium of Light. Had some of the chances been taken it could have gone differently for him.
Parkinson was not to blame for the squad that inherited, one which had already contained arguably the biggest transfer mistake made by Sunderland since their relegation to League One. That being the addition of Will Grigg who has struggled over the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
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However, that mistake was repeated in a less expensive fashion this summer by the gamble to re-sign Danny Graham. The experienced striker had fired in 15 goals in League One to help Blackburn Rovers to promotion in 2018/19. However, he scored just four in the Championship last term. The 35-year-old has failed to score in 12 League One matches so far for the Black Cats.
The strategy of bringing in ageing forwards and gambling that they have the ability to fire in the goals needed for promotion needs to change. Johnson is a manager that believes in young talent and showed repeatedly his ability to get the best out of quality talents during his time at Bristol City.
The Black Cats have already shown signs they are going to adopt that change, with Sunderland being linked with Barnsley’s talented winger Luke Thomas. That would be exactly the right profile of attacking player to be targeting and Johnson is the sort of coach who could get the best out of a talent such as the 21-year-old.
Johnson also offers a proven track record when it comes to the development of quality players arriving into his side on loan from Premier League clubs. That was demonstrated most notably by his work with Tammy Abraham, but there were plenty of other examples as well during his time at Bristol City.
That makes Sunderland a much more attractive proposition for clubs in the Championship and Premier League to loan them players to. There is therefore no reason why the Black Cats can not change their transfer approach and reap the rewards by having a younger and more vibrant attacking blueprint.