This is a perplexing period for Sunderland, one that won’t end for another week.
The Academy of Light has been closed due to COVID-19 until the 27th December so the players and staff will experience a rare Christmas at home.
Although the players won’t be busy, senior club officials will be drawing up a shortlist of January targets.
Sunderland have one clear ambition for the upcoming transfer window – to sign someone who can stretch the play.
Jack Diamond has helped Lee Johnson in that aspect but it remains a priority to find a goal scorer besides Charlie Wyke.
Could they find that in the form of a Premier League talent? Quite possibly. Prospective buyer William Storey revealed this week that he has ambitions of bringing in a select group of U23 players currently at sides in the Premier League. That’s presuming he seals a deal with Stewart Donald.
The Sunderland Echo speculated who might be on the Black Cats’ list heading into January and one name that stood out was Arsenal youngster Folarin Balogun.
The Echo explained that a number of Championship clubs would be interested in the striker’s services but he was certainly in the mould of player that Sunderland would be looking at.
Make no mistake about it, Balogun is still relatively untested at professional level.
However, the early signs we’ve seen are phenomenal. The American-born forward has scored twice for the Gunners in the Europa League this term, netting against Dundalk and Molde while he has found the net regularly for Arsenal’s youth sides.
Balogun’s playing days are still embryonic but he’s been compared to some of the best attackers we’ve seen in the English game.
Speaking about the teenager on BT Sport this season (via The Daily Mail), Martin Keown compared him to an ex-Sunderland player: “The way he linked up, that is a great turn. You try to compare, is it Andy Cole or Ian Wright? There is that sort of movement about him. I know those are big-name players and if he can live up to that he will have some career.”
That’s an incredibly exciting quote and leads us to believe he could fix one of Johnson’s biggest issues. Mikel Arteta described the player as “really lively” earlier this term and he brings pace and movement in abundance – something Wyke, Will Grigg and Danny Graham don’t necessarily offer.
Possessing the ability to run in behind and stretch defences, he’d be a fabulous capture.