While logic held that Sunderland would use their Darren Bent money to procure a replacement for the lost striker, Steve Bruce and the Black Cats have instead concentrated on bolstering their midfield, something the club website concedes is the focus. While Bent is gone, Danny Welbeck is hurt and Frazier Campbell's months away from recovering from knee surgery, Sunderland has instead looked to bolster an area of the pitch were they already have Jordan Henderson, Lee Cattermole, Cristian Riveros as well as the occasional, central contributions of Kieran Richardson andStede Malbranque.
But who are we to question Sunderland, who have vaulted toward the top of the league in their second season under Steve Bruce? After leading the Black Cats to an eight point improvement last year (finishing 13th, with 44 points), the Sunderland boss has his team on the edge of Champions League, four points behind fourth place Chelsea. Clearly, Bruce has some idea what he's doing, and if he feels the team needs to strengthen in midfield (possibly bracing the squad for a summer sale of Jordan Henderson), we should have our ears open to the possibilities.
Various online outlets have been speculating throughout Thursday that Sunderland is close to a €6 million deal for Paris Stain-Germain's Stephane Sessegnon. On their website, the Black Cats confessed Bruce's interest in the versatile midfielder, who could be deployed across the width of the pitch in either central or attacking roles. As of midday on Thursday, though, the more reliable source reporting still leans toward strong link.
Similar links have Sulley Muntari, currently plying his trade at Inter Milan, returning to the Premier League. The sometime Ghanaian international went to the San Siro two seasons ago in a €12 million move from Portsmouth. Now, the central midfielder, also capable of playing wide, is said to be close to a England return, though he will undoubtedly cost less than his July 2008 rate. His English Premier League experience provides some assurance that acclimation should not be a problem, something that can not be said for Sessegnon.
A third, less firm link from Sunderland is to Borussia Monchenglanbach midfielder Michael Bradley. The U.S. international impressed at this summer's World Cup but now finds himself embroiled in a relegation battle, with Monchengladbach looking like a potential 2. Bundesliga club. However, with Sunderland taking the time to mention two other midfielders in today's statement, Bradley seems a much longer shot than either Sessegnon or Muntari.