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Sep 3, 2014

How did Sunderland do in the window?

Sunderland have completed the signing of midfielder Jack Rodwell from Manchester City.

Ins and outs

Players in: Billy Jones (West Brom, free), Costel Pantilimon (Man City, free), Jordi Gomez (Wigan, free), Patrick van Aarnholt (Chelsea, undisclosed), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, undisclosed), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, loan), Will Buckley (Brighton, undisclosed), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool, loan), Ricky Alvarez (Inter Milan, loan)

Players out: Phil Bardsley (Stoke, free), Craig Gardner (West Brom, free), Jack Colback (Newcastle, free), Carlos Cuellar, Andrea Dossena, David Vaughan, Kieren Westwood (released), Ignacio Scocco (Newell's Old Boys, undisclosed), Alfred N'Diaye (Real Betis, undisclosed), El-Hadji Ba (Bastia, loan), Modibo Diakite (released), Valentin Roberge (Reims, loan)

Summing up the window

The big fee for Rodwell is the exception to a shopping expedition conducted with few thrills in the bargain basement. One or two of the cheaper acquisitions -- notably Will Buckley and Patrick van Aanholt -- could prove snips at the prices paid. Buckley is a winger who can excite fans with his direct approach and a priceless ability to beat his man, though James McClean seemed to have similar qualities when introduced to first-team football among Martin O'Neill's earliest decisions as Sunderland manager, and most on Wearside were probably relieved in the end to see him go.

Pantilimon will give Vito Mannone a run for his money in goal, and the defence looks more balanced with Van Aanholt, Jones and Vergini competing for the full-back roles. The late loan deals bringing Alvarez and Coates to Sunderland offer, respectively, another midfield option (Gomez, from Wigan, is also a useful addition) and defensive cover. 6/10

Best piece of business

Rodwell's signing from Man City gave supporters a much-needed fillip just as the view from the transfer window was beginning to look dull. After an underwhelming opening game at WBA, the equalising goal in his home debut against Man United was a huge tonic, for him and the fans. But if Rodwell's injury problems recur or, heaven forbid, all that promise remains unfulfilled, Van Aanholt or Buckley may be able to show bargains sometimes pay off.

Jack Rodwell has paid early dividends with a goal that earned Sunderland a point versus Manchester United.
Jack Rodwell has already impressed at the club.

Worst piece of business

Losing Colback to Newcastle United, with no time left on his contract to bring the consolation of a fee, was a significant disappointment. He is a dependable midfielder, already catching the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson, with the occasional goal in him, and supporters are entitled to ask why he had not been pinned down to a contract extension. In mitigation, the inbound midfield Jack -- Rodwell -- is a more complete player.

What remaining issues are there?

The protracted quest for Fabio Borini's return, permanently or on loan again, was a distracting irritant. He never, in truth, looked remotely interested in the move, except as a last resort, and I am not sure that level of commitment justified the chase. But the need for a proven goal scorer is still there. At least Steven Fletcher, Jozy Altidore and Wickham have all stayed, but each, with the exception of Wickham in last season's finale, has been low scoring and would have benefited from competition. John O'Shea and Wes Brown, great troupers that they are, perhaps needed more cover than the loan of Coates for injuries and suspensions.

Who can help in January?

Let us forget Borini for good. Clearly, he would sooner sit on someone else's bench, or merely aim for it, than return. Manager Gus Poyet must look instead at men who might suddenly be fringe players, and anxious for on-field time, because of the top six clubs' transfer activity. Arsenal's Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell could be one possibility unless Sunderland goals are flowing by then.

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