Many would argue that the January recruitments brought into the Stadium of Light by Sam Allardyce were vital in Sunderland’s eventual top-flight safety. The likes of Jan Kirchhoff, Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri along with the staple players pushed the Black Cats to their tenth consecutive top-flight season.
As the summer rolls in and preparations begin for the next campaign, Allardyce will be looking to make significant signings to help strengthen his side to avoid yet another relegation side and give the club and the fans the success they deserve.
With that in my mind, here is a look where Sunderland need to strengthen their side ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.
The likes of Jermain Defoe of Fabio Borini were vital in Sunderland’s survival last season especially the veteran English striker who managed 15 league goals which were pivotal in their survival and was worthy of a call-up from Roy Hodgson.
However Defoe is getting any younger at the age of 33 and Borini been favoured out on the wing by Allardyce rather than an out-and-out striker. Defoe seems to be the only realistic body up top at the present moment with Dame N’Doye certainly not making a return to Wearside after his abysmal showing while on loan and the contracts of Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham expiring this summer.
One target that has been talked about so far has been Southampton’s Graziano Pelle. The Italian has been linked with a move back to his homeland with Lazio but could actually quite a good fit upfront especially with Defoe.
Pelle has shown his ability with his time on the South Coast and is excellent with his back to goal and his strength would work will Defoe and the rest of the side allowing them to get up field as well as having an eye for goal with 14 goals in all competitions this season.
One area of the field that Allardyce did strengthen in January was out on the wing with Khazri looking like a great signing so far and has already established himself as a fan favourite on Wearside.
This has been followed by the emergence of youngster Duncan Watmore and Borini been favoured out wide which makes for good showing, however it can still be improved.
It looks increasingly likely that Jeremain Lens will move on this summer after to failing to impress since his initial £8m move from Dynamo Kiev last summer. Despite the increasing emergence of Watmore and Rees Greenwood who recently made his senior league debut in the 2-2 draw with Watford it is unlikely that Allardyce will use them as first-choice wingers throughout the season.
There are some options for Allardyce to look at with Jason Puncheon and Victor Moses been whispered but one player that has been heavily shouted about is Swansea’s Jordan Ayew.
They have been linked with the forward since January but the rumours have begun to warm up again. It is Sunderland that have been one of the frontrunners in signing the Ghanaian but Swansea’s stubbornness could lead Sunderland to break their transfer record with £15million been the reported asking price but it remains to be seen if Sunderland will cough up such a fee.
One of the strongest positions for the Black Cats this season have been their full-back positions with Patrick van Aanholt and DeAndre Yedlin proving crucial in the club’s eventual survival.
It didn’t start that way with both starting the season quite poorly like the rest of the side but have improved immensely especially since the arrival of Allardyce with Van Aanholt coming on leaps and bounds finishing the season as one of the highest-scoring defenders in the league with six goals.
While the left-back position seems to have been secured for the foreseeable future by the Dutchman, the future of the left-back position still remains very much in the air.
Yedlin has stated that he wouldn't’t mind returning to the Stadium of Light from parent club Tottenham Hotspur but any sort of deal remains to be seen and Tom Robson who also made his debut against Watford isn't’t prepared just yet for regular first-team action at the age of 20.
There have been rumours of Bristol City's Aden Flint making a move from Ashton Gate to Wearside with flop Adam Matthews heading the other way which seems to have been turned down by the Sky Bet Championship club.
Kone may have only been on the Wearside for a few months after his transfer fiasco from Lorient but has become a firm favourite and is arguably one of the main reason why the club’s defence has solidified since January. The Ivorian has not improved the defence but the players around him have also improved with the likes of Younes Kaboul looking a different player since his move in the summer.
However the increasing age of the majority of their centre back’s is becoming an increasing concern with both John O’Shea and Wes Brown were on the wrong side of 35 aged both 35 and 36 respectively and as much as Kaboul has improved they will be in need of some reinforcements.
There have been no strong rumours flying around of Allardyce looking in the market for a central defender but whispers have begun to emerge in the last few days of Borussia Dortmund's Neven Subotic making a move to Sunderland but it is highly unlikely that such a move will suffice.
Allardyce is currently winning in defensive midfielders with Yann M’Vila, Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff all impressing last season especially Kirchhoff with the former Bayern Munich man arguably been the signing of the January transfer window.
However they are still suffering down the middle in a creative sense with both Jack Rodwell and Sebastian Larsson both struggling for fitness and form last campaign with that absence of creativity seriously hindering the amount of goals the Black Cats managed to put away.
One serious target that is apparently been considered is West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison who will be a free agent this summer but his allegiance to newly-promoted Middlesbrough could see Allardyce return to the drawing board.