What can we expect from Sunderland in the closing weeks of the transfer window?

Just a month on from Simon Grayson’s first game in charge, Sunderland return to Gigg Lane tonight with his side finally beginning to take shape.

Sunderland began that friendly match with midfielder Lynden Gooch leading the line, bailed out only by a stellar second-half showing from Josh Maja.

Maja is injured for the return to Bury in the Carabao Cup, so Grayson will likely continue with his new-look force of Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan.

Elsewhere, the squad is beginning to grow, with Aiden McGeady making an encouraging debut against Derby County.

Clearly, however, much work is still to be done. So what business can be expected in the coming weeks?

The defence

Securing a permanent deal for Robbin Ruiter gives Grayson much-needed depth in goal, but, in front of the keeper, things are still up in the air.

The lack of concrete interest in Lamine Kone has raised the prospect, still highly unlikely though it is, that the Ivorian could stay past August.

Even if that was the case, another centre-back of real Championship stature would still be welcome and Sunderland are eager to find one.

Kone’s departure would leave the Black Cats looking uncertain in the heart of defence, even if the extra wages and significant fee would allow for strengthening elsewhere.

In the full-back department, the Black Cats are overloaded and a loan for either Donald Love or Adam Matthews should be considered.

Another possible departure could well be Papy Djilobodji, who does not appear to be part of Grayson’s plans and is still well thought of on the continent.

Fabio Borini’s move to AC Milan shows many clubs are willing to look past a failure at Sunderland, all too regular for so many talented players to be considered a coincidence.

The midfield

Grayson faces a conundrum here in that when Paddy McNair and Duncan Watmore return from injury, his midfield will look well-stocked.

Both, however, have been out for such a long time that delays and setbacks are inevitable.

The Black Cats boss will want another winger, something that becomes imperative if Wahbi Khazri leaves.

That is unlikely to be Bournemouth’s Max Gradel, who is seen primarily as a striker these days and who Cherries boss Eddie Howe is currently very reluctant to let leave. Should that change, he could become a primary target as a centre-forward.

Talk of Middlesbrough’s Grant Leadbitter returning is interesting given that the club already has a lot of wages tied up in central midfield, but, given Jack Rodwell’s injury problems, someone who can replace Lee Cattermole or Didier Ndong and match their work-rate would be a positive and welcome addition.

The strikers

What Grayson does in this department may well depend on what funds he generates from other players, such as Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone.

As he himself said in pre-season, Sunderland have a good wage budget but are heavily restricted when it comes to paying fees.

That applies not only to permanent deals but loans, too.

A deal for Ross McCormack is close, but Aston Villa are eager to hold out for a significant financial commitment from another club, with the striker one of the best-paid players in the league.

Patience is required on that deal, but his arrival would be a boon for Grayson.

Like Lewis Grabban, he is a good finisher but is adept at playing as the deeper of two strikers, creating as well as scoring.

Preston striker Jordan Hugill has been much discussed and, while there was interest initially from the Black Cats, there has been little movement. Birmingham’s struggles to sign him suggests a prohibitive asking price on Preston’s part.

So, in short, expect another arrival up front, with McCormack the strong front-runner.