As a Sunderland fan, it seems appropriate to question whether Steve Bruce has further developed on the positive signings made during his first season as manager.
Following a summer where a lot of attention was directed towards England’s woeful World Cup campaign in South Africa, my focus was primarily on the performance of Sunderland Paraguayan duo of Paulo da Silva and new signing Cristian Riveros.
In Riveros, a coup on a free transfer, Bruce has gained a player capable of filling the central midfield void left by last season’s captain Lorik Cana. Riveros looked a very capable passer of the ball, looking comfortable among the finest players in the world.
One name that most Sunderland fans were surprised to see joining was Titus Bramble, an ex-Newcastle defender who is often unfairly associated with past blunders.
However, while many were anxious about Bramble’s arrival, you cannot forget that he has played in the top flight for nearly a decade with Ipswich, Newcastle and Wigan.
After watching the first few games I think it would be more fair to judge Bramble on his time at Sunderland, rather than his previous clubs, and from the first few games he is looking settled and confident, key aspects for any top flight defender.
When Steve Bruce signed young goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, I am sure it was not in his plans to throw the Belgian in at the deep end by starting him as No.1 in the new season.
Furthermore, I must admit I have been a critic of Mignolet after the first few games, all the while forgetting he is only 21 and still very young for a goalkeeper.
Despite a few signs of nerves in the opening fixtures, a great performance against Manchester City, including several top class saves, has reinforced why Bruce has entrusted him with the No.1 spot during Craig Gordon’s absence.
Marcos Angeleri is still a relative unknown, due to a lack of fitness upon arrival, but many fans are keen to see how the Argentine fares with his defensive versatility.
Bruce has also utilised the loan system to a great advantage this summer, firstly with the arrival of Nedum Onuoha.
The Man City man has showed he is a class act on his debut and never looked out of his depth and providing both defensive quality and attacking prowess.
In addition, winger Ahmed Al-Muhammadi provides something Sunderland have been lacking for many years - pace. The “Egyptian David Beckham” has the ability to run at defenders and create chances.
No matter how he finds the space to get the ball in the box, it is the job of the strikers to make something of it. This addition of pace to the right hand side to compliment Malbranque’s skill and creativity on the left is a hidden gem within Bruce’s bargaining.
Due to his arrival from Manchester United, many have placed an unfair disadvantage on Danny Welbeck to impress immediately, when integration into a new club takes time.
The unfortunate injury to Frazier Campbell may provide Welbeck with a chance to shine and follow in his ex-team mates’ footsteps to succeed at the Stadium of Light.
Campbell himself took time to settle in last season but once he did, he quickly became a favourite among the fans and I don’t see any reason why Welbeck wouldn’t be the same.
Many fans were delighted to see the reacquisition of one of last season’s star performers John Mensah, who excelled at centre half amidst a season savaged by injuries.
In addition to the re-loaning of the World Cup star, few expected to see the arrival of another Ghanaian, Asamoah Gyan.
After garnering worldwide acclaim for his performances at the World Cup, the club’s new record signing will have many expectations to live up to – mostly because of the departure of Kenwyne Jones, a fans’ favourite among many of the Stadium of Light faithful.
Gyan will not only get a lot of goals, but also provide many more and add a touch of much needed class. Hopefully fans will be seeing a lot more of Gyan’s touchline dancing, as he helps Sunderland progress to new heights that are gradually becoming more reachable.
Bruce’s signings overall install some confidence, as the calibre of player being attracted is generally much more positive than in recent seasons.
With new stars in every position across the field, Bruce has assembled a squad, rather than a team, and all must play a part if Sunderland are to achieve a realistic top ten finish.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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