Despite the table right now showing that they sit fourth in League One, the 2021-22 season couldn’t be going much better for Sunderland.
A 4-0 drubbing from Portsmouth in monsoon-like conditions before the international break wasn’t ideal but a great run of form saw the Black Cats sit in second before this past weekend’s reduced fixture list.
There’s also been a great run in the EFL Cup in which they will compete in a last 16 tie against Queens Park Rangers, and the good fortune on the pitch must surely boil down to the changes that new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus has made at the club.
The whole approach has changed with lots of data-driven figures coming in behind the scenes and a new recruitment strategy to boot, and deadline day of the summer transfer window saw the club delve into the foreign market to bring in two German talents.
One of those was Union Berlin’s young forward Leon Dajaku, who was previously on the books of Bayern Munich and has Bundesliga appearances to his name, whilst the other signing came directly from the German champions in Ron-Thorben Hoffmann.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper came in to strengthen a position that needed addressing, with Lee Burge’s performances last season not being entirely convincing.
Whilst never playing for Bayern’s senior side, Hoffmann was a regular for their B team in the third tier of German football and from his performances so far it’s easy to see why he was targeted and it shows that the club’s new recruitment drive of data analysis is working.
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Looking at his stats on Wyscout, Hoffmann’s best skill is his reflexes, saving all four shots that came against him against Bolton Wanderers and similarly stopped two of Accrington Stanley’s three shots against him.
His ability to play out from the back was also a factor into the signing – he averages 24.6 accurate passes per game and 5.83 accurate long passes per match – which includes a perfect 10 out of 10 attempted against Fleetwood Town.
According to German publication Kicker, Sunderland will be obliged to sign Hoffmann on a permanent deal should they get promoted to the Championship at the end of this season.
Why wait though? They could potentially tie him up in the mid-season January transfer window and considering his early performances for the club, it might be for the best if they agree a fee with Bayern to bring him in early.
It would also free up another loan spot for Sunderland to potentially do some more business in the upcoming window, but from a long-term investment standpoint it makes a lot of sense for Louis-Dreyfus to bring Hoffmann in permanently in a few months time.