Amad has been a shining light on Wearside during his loan from Manchester United, but with a return unlikely next season, Sunderland will have to find someone to replicate his brilliance as they look to gain promotion.
Many Sunderland fans may believe Amad is irreplaceable, and with how incredible he has been this campaign it wouldn’t be crazy to say so. However, there are many players who are very similar to the Ivorian despite his relatively unique profile.
Often this season we have seen the loanee used on the right of a 4-2-3-1 or in the number 10 role behind the striker however he is less of a traditional winger and more a left footed, inverted right winger who likes to come inside and operate predominantly in the right half space.
He is the type of player who could also mold into a right sided number eight, similarly to Bernardo Silva and Martin Odegaard who began as a wide right midfielder/winger, as players who aren’t particularly quick but due to their close control and technical ability can appear very fluid on the ball.
As well as this, he possesses attributes such as close control, two-way dribbling and brilliant chance creation in tight areas of the pitch, with a total of 35 chances created this season. It should be noted that I am in NO WAY suggesting Odegaard or Silva should be the replacement, Sunderland are far too good for that, but the similarities between the three can be seen here.
(For each player, from bottom to top the rows are ‘Successful Take-ons per90’, ‘Progressive carries per90’, ‘Shot Creating Actions per90’, and ‘Touches in Att Pen Area per90’.)
He has developed an eye for goal on Wearside too, with this being his highest scoring season in his career with 12 so far. As well as coming in off the right, he also impresses when exploiting the space between the left entre-back and left back.
It is evident what type of player Sunderland will be looking for and considering the model of signing young and often foreign players, here are some suggestions.
Alejandro ‘Alex’ Zendejas is a 25-year-old Mexican born winger who plays for Liga MX’s club América. He began his career at FC Dallas before being moved on to Mexican side Guadalajara, and after a loan to CA Zacatepec early on he ended up signing for Necaxa. An 18-month stint at Los Rayos was followed by his transfer to Club América in January of 2022 for whom he has since scored 15 goals in 48 appearances.
After opting to represent USA instead of his birthplace Mexico on the international stage, he has since made three appearances for the USMNT, scoring one goal in a CONCACAF Nations League game against Grenada.
He operates primarily on the right-hand side what is often a 4-2-3-1 and occasionally a 4-3-3 under coach Fernando Ortiz, and similarly to Amad is left footed and likes to come into central areas of the pitch to affect the attacking phase of play.
He is an outstanding two-way dribbler, being able to go inside and outside, has a very good passing range as well as being elite in tight spaces due to his agility and low centre of gravity, standing at just 5”6. As well as this, has very good quick link-up with teammates which is something Sunderland fans have seen Diallo do with Patrick Roberts countless times this campaign.
As the graph below shows he is statistically very close to Amad, and if he can polish some areas of his game such as being able to successfully take on a man more often, then he could be a like-for-like replacement for the Ivorian.
Each stat is per 90 minutes.
Tony Mowbray likes his team to be fluid yet patient in possession especially in the attacking third and exercise all angles and possibilities to break down a defence, Zendejas possesses the traits for this type of team and would be an ample replacement and addition at the Stadium of Light.
Gabriel Pereira is a 21-year-old winger/attacking midfielder who was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and plays his football in the USA for New York City FC. He started his career at Corinthians in his home nation and after making his debut in 2020 he went on to make 47 appearances for Timao.
Eventually, in March 2022 he was bought by NYCFC, and he got nine goals and three assists in his maiden season as they finished third in the MLS Eastern Conference.
The pie chart below shows that so far in the 2023 campaign, he has made a total of five direct goal contributions, which is currently the highest total in the team. He has been directly involved in 41.67% of NYCFC’s 12 goals so far.
In terms of Pereira’s profile, he is once again a right-footed left winger who has very good dribbling ability and chance creation which has been shown in his goal contributions this season. He has been particularly good in isolation situations, when he gets in a 1v1 with a defender he often beats them.
This video below is a perfect example, Pereira isolates the defender and notices his body position, cuts inside then very quickly back outside to beat the defender and is unfortunate with his shot but the move still results in a goal.
His similarities to Amad are clear, again he noticeably comes inside to operate and help his team while the right back pushes up into the space. As well as having good agility and pace to be able to beat defenders.
Sunderland is said to have been scouting in North and South America, so a player like Gabi Pereira could fit the bill of what the recruitment team are looking for.
Velasco is a 20-year-old Argentine born two-sided winger who plays for FC Dallas. He was brought through the ranks at Independiente, before signing for the Texas club in February 2022 for which he has made 37 appearances, scoring nine goals. In his debut season, he registered seven goals and five assists to help boost Dallas into the playoffs.
This chart below shows he ranked fourth in the MLS for Goals and Assists for players aged 21 and under in his debut season (2022) in the States, and second if you only include teams in the Western Conference.
Although he predominantly plays on the left wing, there are signs in his game that display how he could play off the right too, including his ability to use both feet meaning he could go two ways when attacking a defender. His low centre of gravity and agility allows him to turn in tight spaces and carry the ball at a pace while weaving in and out of defenders, which are similar traits to what we have seen Amad possess this season.
In a year or two, it wouldn’t be crazy to suggest that Velasco will be a top target for some big European teams, so if Sunderland want him, they will have to move quickly, as the Argentine has the potential to go very far in the game.
Collins is a 25-year-old Welsh footballer who currently plays in League One for Bristol Rovers. He began his career through the ranks at hometown club Newport County, before being bought by Wolves. After some time in the u23’s and loans away to Notts County, Tranmere Rovers, Maidstone, back to Newport County and finally Colchester United he was eventually released permanently to Morecambe in February 2019.
After just a 4-month stint at the Shrimps, he left for Forest Green Rovers and helped them to a League Two play-off finish in his breakout season. This caught the eye of Bristol Rovers, who signed him, and he repaid them by playing a significant role in their promotion to League One. He has since had an excellent season at the Gas in the third tier, scoring 16 goals and getting 11 assists as he recently picked up the Sky Bet League One Player of the Season award.
He is your typical modern winger with the low socks and number 10 on his back, and although traditionally a left winger/centre forward, he has shown a lot of glimpses in his style of play that he could mold into an attacking midfielder or right winger, like Amad.
I particularly noted his brace away at Burton Albion which can be seen in the video below. His first goal, he uses his quick feet to send the defender the wrong way and goes down the left to finish brilliantly on his left foot into the roof of the net. His second goal is from a similar area, but this time he cuts inside on his right foot and with some brilliant intent and ball striking finds the near post. The variation in his goal catalogue is the sign of a very complete winger.
If we look at more in-depth statistics to compare the two, it is clear that they rank similarly for key passes per 90, dribbles per 90, and times fouled per 90. Collins ranks slightly higher in shots per 90 but that can be put down to the fact he plays slightly higher up the pitch than Amad, as he has played as a CF numerous time this campaign.
Each stat is per 90 minutes.
Collins looks destined for a move to the Championship in the summer, and Sunderland should definetley be one of the clubs looking at him. He has already shown that he is probably too good for the third tier, and it could prove to be a big miss if he goes to a promotion rival.
They are the four suggestions I would personally make when looking at the in-depth data. Some of these players could prove to be slightly pricier than others, but with the profits Sunderland are likely to turn after a brilliant first Championship season, I don’t believe any are too far out of reach.
However, considering how good Sunderland’s recruitment has been in recent years I am sure that they will have something up their sleeve to hopefully propel Sunderland to promotion back to the topflight. (That’s in the case that it doesn’t miraculously happen this season)