Ally McCoist used to play for Sunderland. Regretting that £185,000 now? A very busy summer for the Mackems so far – Vaughan, O’Shea, Brown, Wickham, Gardner, Larsson and Dong-Won Ji all coming in, with an outlay of around £20million. But are these the players that are needed?
Sunderland finished a decent 10th in the league last season, narrowly beating out West Bromwich Albion, and falling 1 point short of Aston Villa in 9th. Finishing with 12 wins, 11 draws and 15 losses puts them right in the ‘average’ zone – 9 teams recorded more wins, 6 teams recorded more losses and 8 teams recorded more draws. It was a poor season up front however, with only 45 goals being scored – only Wigan, Birmingham and West Ham hit the back of the net less often. At the back, again it could be described as average. 56 goals conceded, with 9 teams; including 13th place Stoke, conceding less often.
Sunderland’s top scorer was Asamoah Gyan with 10 for the season, with Darren Bent in 2nd place with 8. Next up was Kieran Richardson with 4, and Phillip Bardsley, Jordan Henderson and Stephane Sessegnon with 3 each. When your second top scorer only played 20 games for you and left half way through the season, surely there’s cause for alarm?
Delving into the assists charts makes for even worse reading for Sunderland fans. Rated 49th and 50th in the charts, the highest SAFC players – Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Henderson with 5 apiece. Malbranque comes in with 4, with Muntari and Richardson on 3. Again, you can’t help but think – if two WBA players, one Wolves and one Stoke player are in the top 20 assists, something surely isn’t right, even though you finished a comfortable 10th?
The famous possession duels stats look average as well – losing 70 more than they won out of 4376, with a similar figure out of the 1408 aerial duels they had. Despite this, they had a 68% pass completion rate and had 751 interceptions. Only 5 teams kept more clean sheets than them, which shows promise for the defence, with Mignolet keeping 8 of them and Scotsman Craig Gordon keeping 5. Also of note, 5 of Sunderland’s goals were own goals, so massively lucky if you ask me.
So who was the key man this season? Without a doubt it was their number 33, Gyan. Nobody scored more, and was influential in setting up goals as well. Henderson? Good all-rounder, perhaps the top midfielder, but not as impressive. Richardson had a good season, but struggled to make a huge impact. Darren Bent is in with a shout, as their season collapsed without their talismanic striker.
What does Sunderland need then? A new striker? Somebody to replace Henderson? With a backline that looks at least semi decent, but with an aging midfield and lacklustre backup to Gyan upfront, that should most definitely be on the agenda. In a similar boat to Stoke, they are lacking a certain je nes se quoi which prevents them challenging the Villas, Evertons and Fulhams of the EPL.