Over the course of last Friday, Sunderland effectively announced themselves as genuine contenders for a top-eight position in the Premier League, with a spot in next season's Europa League a very distinct possibility.
The signings of striker Steven Fletcher from Wolverhampton and winger Adam Johnson from Manchester City—believed to have cost a combined £24 million (the club's official site has not released the actual sum)—constituted a strong statement from the northeast club.
It marks quite the uptick in aspirations, considering that manager Martin O'Neill had taken over midway last season with Sunderland mired in the bottom of the standings.
The former Aston Villa boss led quite a resurrection, however, and after drawing away to Arsenal to start the season (Sunderland's second match was postponed due to inclement weather), the newest additions to the cause have only bolstered hopes for a strong campaign.
Johnson, who never quite found his footing in three seasons at the Etihad, is a major reason for the optimistic outlook.
The Easington-born player provided an assist for one of James McClean's two goals in Tuesday night's 2-0 victory over Morecambe in the Capital One Cup, his corner kick finding the young Irishman, who headed to open the scoring. (Fletcher almost made his club debut in the game.)
It was quite the introduction for Johnson, who told the club's official site he shouldn't have any problems fitting in.
"I’ve probably known Lee since the age of 12 and I know a few of the other lads too," Johnson said.
"In fact, there’s probably six or seven that I know so it shouldn’t be hard settling in."
With a trip to Swansea City, one of the Premier League's most impressive starters this season (they've outscored their first two opponents 8-0), on the agenda this weekend, Johnson will need to be at his best should Sunderland hope to obtain another positive result.
Swansea had difficulties defending another tricky winger—West Ham United's Matt Jarvis, last weekend, so it would follow that Johnson could hope to make an impact at the Liberty.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!