Watford 2-2 Sunderland: Five talking points as Premier League season comes to a close

VAVEL takes you through five talking points ahead of next season, as Sunderland ended the current campaign on 39 points after earning a point at Vicarage Road, despite taking the lead twice during the game.

Watford 2-2 Sunderland: Five talking points as Premier League season comes to a close
Jack Rodwell netted his first league goal of the season as a changed side earned a hard-fought point. (Photo: Sunderland AFC)

Sunderland were held to a draw yesterday after Watford came from behind twice to earn a point on the final day of the season, with suspect officiating overshadowing the celebrations as the Black Cats saw two goals wrongly disallowed for offside.

Jack Rodwell and Jeremain Lens both found the net as they returned to the starting 11, with Rees Greenwood, Thomas Robson and George Honeyman making their Premier League debuts.

Here are five talking points as Sunderland look ahead to next season:

Three debutants impress as they look to be involved in the first-team picture

With safety secured in midweek, Sam Allardyce hinted that he would give some of the youth players a chance in the final game of the season. That is exactly what he did as Greenwood and Robson started the game at left-back and left-wing whilst Honeyman replaced the former in the 52nd minute of the match.

The three certainly did not look out of place in the side, and whilst they may have not set the world alight, they will have put themselves in Allardyce's mind for the start of next season.

As Duncan Watmore has already proved, there is a path from the U21 side to the first-team if you impress when given the chance, so who is to say that we will not be seeing more of the three debutants in the future?

Jeremain Lens impresses in a central role - but does he have his eye on a summer move?

Yesterday's game saw Dick Advocaat's marquee signing make a rare start, as he slotted in just behind Dame N'Doye rather than his favoured position out on the wing.

The decision to play him there certainly paid dividends as he managed a goal and an assist in an impressive performance that makes you wonder if he was simply putting himself in the shop window for the summer transfer window.

His first season in the Premier League hasn't panned out as he would have hoped, with first team opportunities limited since the arrival of Allardyce, who is seemingly not a big fan of the Dutch international.

This performance showed that the ability is there, but only time will tell if he is to get another chance to showcase it in a Sunderland shirt.

Will Lens still be a Sunderland player in the 2016/17 season? (Photo: Sunderland AFC)
Will Lens still be a Sunderland player in the 2016/17 season? (Photo: Sunderland AFC)

Jordan Pickford or Vito Mannone - who will be handed the gloves next season?

This question was debated at the turn of the year when Costel Pantilimon was sold to Watford, and at the time Allardyce made clear that Mannone was his first choice goalkeeper despite Pickford impressing on-loan at Preston earlier in the season.

With Pickford signing a four-year deal back in January at the club he has supported since youth, he is definitely seen as one that has a long-term future at Sunderland, but will he claim the spot as first choice stopper next season?

Of course Sunderland could go out and sign a new goalkeeper, but with Pickford a ready made option coming straight from the academy as well as being an England U21 international, it would be a surprise to see Mannone oust him once more in the 2016/17 season.

Which of the four loanees should remain at the club?

Sunderland have always been a club that use the loan market to their advantage, with successful spells for players such as Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck and Danny Rose helping them on their way to becoming important players for Premier League teams.

This season has seen N'Doye, Yann M'Vila, Ola Toivonen and DeAndre Yedlin arrive at the Stadium of Light on loan. But who deserves to be offered a permanent deal?

N'Doye and Toivonen will almost certainly not be returning after failing to impress on Wearside, and Allardyce has remained coy when asked about the future of Yedlin, who has improved since becoming a regular fixture in the starting 11.

M'Vila is the only one who should without a doubt be offered a permanent deal, and Allardyce has made it a top priority due to the player's desire to remain at the club next season in conjunction with his impressive performances particularly in the first half of the season.

Can Sunderland move on from annual relegation battles?

One thing that Sunderland fans are sick of is the constant fight to stay in the top-flight year after year, made even more disappointing by the fact that teams seem to come up from the Championship and overtake the Black Cats within a couple of seasons.

Although previous managers have failed to move the club on from being pinned down as escapologists by fans and pundits alike, Allardyce may well be the man to take the club forward and transform the Wearsiders into a respected Premier League outfit.

He has already done so in the past with Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United, and although he may not have been appreciated by the latter's fans there is no doubting that they would not have been in the position to break into the top half this season if it were not for Allardyce guiding them to mid-table first.

Sunderland fans will certainly hope that he can do the same for their team, as they would likely snap your hands off if offered with a dull season of mid-table mediocrity.