The most expensive arrival on the transfer deadline day couldn't have hoped for a much better start to life in the Premier League.
There was skepticism about the $20.4 million Sunderland paid to buy
Nonetheless, the fee is eye-catching. Sunderland was known as the Bank of England Club in the 1950s for its attempts to buy success, but in the last half-century it's never been a big spender. That said, suggestions it "broke the bank" -- as the
Sunderland last summer sold
As British teams have become smarter in their use of statistical analysis -- the Moneyball effect -- a basic rule has emerged: Never sign a player on the back of a major tournament. This is the
The problem with World Cups is that they are short and overhyped. Even the winners play only seven games.
It took Liverpool time to learn its lesson. After the World Cup in 2002, when Senegal impressed on its way to the quarterfinal, Liverpool manager
It is not just the timing of the signing that raises the specter of Diouf. He, like Gyan, excelled in a national side that used him as a lone front-runner, and in which he was the obvious leader. Diouf, it seems, struggled to adapt when he was simply one among many, and was found wanting both technically and in terms of his attitude (although it should be remembered that his first season at Anfield was disrupted by regular trips back to Senegal to visit his ailing father).
First impressions suggest Gyan is rather more grounded. He describes himself as "a funny guy," and at the World Cup, Ghana's players seemed to agree. His first news conference at Sunderland similarly highlighted his comic timing and general joie de vivre. He may be relaxed off the pitch, but on it he seems tireless, the model of the modern all-around center forward -- somebody who fulfills both functions of the classical strike partnership, capable of holding the ball up, winning headers, working across the pitch and getting into goal-scoring positions.
Gyan has gone through his difficult spells, though, and that suggests he may have the strength of mind to cope with the increased physical attention he is sure to receive in the Premier League. He had had a good World Cup in 2006, but by the time Ghana hosted the Cup of Nations two years later, Gyan was misfiring, and after missing a series of chances in the opening game against Guinea, he was so derided he walked out on the squad. Only the intervention of
That psychological toughness was evident again at the World Cup when, having missed the last-minute penalty against Uruguay, he took Ghana's first penalty in the shootout and scored emphatically.
Gyan effectively replaces
Logically, they should work as a duo, with Gyan winning aerial balls, as Jones used to, and Bent taking the scoring burden. The latter could be critical given Gyan's comparatively poor goals record; only once has he scored more than 10 league goals in a season. Gyan is more mobile than Jones, which gives the partnership greater potential, but only if they are able to coordinate their runs so as not to end up either too close to each other or too far apart.
That will take time, but the very early signs for Gyan are promising.