Sunderland already addressing Achilles heel highlighted by Tony Mowbray last season

Sunderland already addressing Achilles heel highlighted by Tony Mowbray last season

Sunderland have wasted no time in getting their summer transfer window up and running and are closing in on a fourth signing. The Black Cats have confirmed the arrivals of Jobe Bellingham, Luis Semedo and Nectarios Triantis, while they’ve also agreed terms with PSV for the signing of Jenson Seelt.

Reports in the Netherlands claim the Wearsiders have agreed a five-year deal with the centre-back, beating Burnley to the punch in a €2million signing. The 6ft3 centre-back will add some much needed height and physicality to Tony Mowbray’s squad – an area they were lacking in last season.

The Championship play-off semi-final defeat to Luton Town showed the Black cats were no match for an organised, physical outfit who threatened from almost every set piece. The game was a clear sign – if it were needed – where Sunderland must improve this summer and they certainly look to have heeded that warning.

Semedo stands at a reported 6ft3, while Triantis also has a towering frame of 6ft3. Sunderland have the technical ability they need to stand out in the Championship already, but the addition of height and power will add another weapon to their arsenal.

READ MORE: Sunderland sign Jobe Bellingham from Birmingham on long-term deal

The lack of height in the squad is something Mowbray has lamented on a number of occasions last season, particularly in the absence of some key players. The Black Cats came from behind against Watford to salvage a 2-2 draw to keep their play-off hopes alive, but conceded from two set-pieces as a result of their lack of height.

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“You can only do what you can do on set-plays – the secret is not to give them any!” said Mowbray. “Try to keep the ball down the other end of the pitch as much as you can, try to keep it on the grass as much as you can. Then you have to find a way to stop them.

“If you’re 5ft 8in, how do you stop a 6ft 3in centre-half who is really aggressive, getting first contact on that ball and heading it towards your net? Our job as coaches is to give them the idea, show them maybe the ‘dark arts’ of football because a 5ft 8in player is not going to beat a six footer when the ball comes in the box, but he needs to know what he has to do, seconds before the ball comes in, how to use his body, find a way.

“You have to try and put your body in the way, try to stop them heading the ball with power, without fouling him you have to find a way to disrupt his running pattern.”

“Every player they brought on towards the end seemed to be 6ft 5 but we managed to see it out,” Mowbray added after the draw with the Hornets at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats were without Danny Batth, Dan Ballard, Ross Stewart and Aji Alese who are all over 6ft tall.

“Today, we weren’t quite able to see those two set plays out – we know it’s an achilles heel for us without Danny Batth and Dan Ballard,” the Sunderland boss said. “Without Aji Alese and Ross Stewart as well, there’s four players who could help deal with that scenario all unavailable.

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“It’s really difficult when you’ve got big, aggressive guys who make a living out of attacking the ball and heading it. Someone just said to me in my office there – have you thought about leaving two guys up the pitch?

“I have, but my view is the more space you give these big guys to run into the more dangerous they become. We try to fill the box so they don’t have the space. They damaged us today from set plays and yet we kept going until the very death.”

  • June 24, 2023