Hopes were high for Sunderland fans at the beginning of this season. Martin O’Neil’s first full season in charge and some big money transfer’s to look forward to on the pitch. But this season hasn’t exactly gone to plan thus far…
Sunderland currently find themselves 15th in the Premier League table and are bottom in the league form table with just two points from 18, dangerously close to slipping into the relegation zone with 31 points, just four above 18th placed Wigan.
The Black Cats spent big in the summer splashing out a total of £31 million on fresh attacking talent to fire Sunderland into the top half of the table. £12 million on the English winger Adam Johnson, £14 million on Scottish striker Steven Fletcher and £5 million on Danny Graham excited Sunderland fans, especially the signing of Adam Johnson who many had high hopes for following his short spell with Manchester City.
Steven Fletcher has delivered 11 goals so far this season for Sunderland but even the Scot has slowed down as of late scoring just one in his five appearances for the Black Cats, with injury forcing Fletcher to sit out last weekend’s match against Norwich as well.
Adam Johnson has four goals and five assists to his name in his 27 starts in the league this season, not the thrilling start to his Sunderland career many fans would have hoped for, creating a total of 44 chances for his team, 26 of them from open play.
Danny Graham however since arriving at The Stadium of Light in January is yet to score with just five shots on target in his six appearances for the club, four of which have been starts. Of course this is still early days with Martin O’Neil tinkering the squad in an attempt to create a partnership between the former Swansea City man and Steven Fletcher up front.
Despite cementing their place in the Premier League again since the 2007-08 season Sunderland fans know all too well what it is like to be relegated and just how quickly a team can be pulled into the dogfight at the foot of the table.
Sunderland have won 23.33% of their games in the league, losing 43.33% scoring 33 goals and conceding 42. Not all that dissimilar from 18th place Wigan who have actually won a higher percentage of their games with 24.14%.
The Mackems next four fixtures see them face Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton. Let’s also not forget the small matter of a Tyne-Wear derby against Newcastle on the 14th April. Tough games approaching and slight concern as to where the Black Cats next three points are going to come from.
The man in charge of Sunderland, Martin O’Neill, has a good reputation and track record and there are not many better managers who could get anymore out of this Sunderland team. O’Neil historically needs time to build his team and with this being his first
full season in charge he has commented: “It’s been a tough season, but I knew that from August – I knew it was going to be a tough season for us,” he said. “We tried to look at some things in January… I think we’d all felt it was going to be tough.
“You said this here about the top half of the table – and that’s still possible. Win a couple of games and you can still do it, but the very fact is that it’s been tough all year round, and if it’s been tough all year round then that might be something to look at again.
“The season before that had been tough. We’d come in and staved off a relegation fight and I think… I think we need an improvement in the ability in the squad.”
Sunderland have remained under the radar during this season with QPR’s dire form, Reading sacking McDermott, Southampton sacking Adkins and Aston Villa’s fight with relegation under Lambert all stealing the headlines which otherwise might have been focused on Sunderland’s slip down the table.
The league is tighter than ever this season and Sunderland need to start winning and picking up points fast but with just nine games remaining do Sunderland have enough in the tank to get out of the scrap and start over again in the summer?
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