Sunderland entered the season with so much promise after surviving the drop last campaign. The club had brought in several highly rated players to join their squad and in Paulo di Canio, they had a manager who they thought could lead the club forwards. They soon found out the latter wasn’t true and quickly replaced the Italian before too much damage was done, but they have continued to underwhelm in the league.
The North East side are now sitting at the bottom of the pile, seven points away from safety and their manager has all but given up hope that the club will be playing Premier League football next season, despite having two matches in hand. It’s not surprising considering his side has only picked up one point from their last eight matches, that is form that deserves relegation.
Gus Poyet came in during October and the club were bottom of the table, but that is no excuse for relegation. Tony Pulis has shown that clubs can be saved from a similar position at Crystal Palace and Poyet had a more talented set of players to work with. The Uruguayan may not have had Premier League experience as a manager, but he had several years as a player, therefore he should have been better prepared than some of the foreign managers coming into the league. The main issue with Poyet is that he has never decided on a strongest eleven and the rotation hasn’t aided the side. He has managed to get the side up for the big occasions like the cup runs and the two derby wins, but they couldn’t sustain the same performance in the less important matches and that is why they are all but certain to go down.
They spent a lot of money in the summer and signed some high profile Internationals like Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini, but they have both failed to impress. The American has only managed to score once, while the Italian has the same number of goals and three assists. The former Juventus winger came to England with a great reputation after impressing at the Confederations Cup, but he has found himself to be used sparingly by Sunderland, despite their troubles.
Furthermore, the team have continually shot themselves in the foot. They are leading the way in terms of own goals and red cards, they are bad on their own, but when you have the most of both, it is a huge worry. Sunderland players have scored six own goals this campaign, their top scorer (Adam Johnson) only has eight goals. The side’s red card tally stands at seven, with Wes Brown getting three of those. The lack of discipline has certainly played a part in the team’s downfall, but it is only a small part in a big problem.
Many Sunderland supporters would point towards the appointment of Roberto de Fanti in the summer, who led a poor summer recruitment. On the face of it, some of the signings appeared to be coups, but players need to be heavily scouted and researched and that can’t have take place at Sunderland. The risks are too high and Sunderland are seeing that now. The club lost two of it’s best players in the summer as Simone Mignolet was sold, while Danny Rose’s loan finished, however neither were replaced. Sunderland didn’t strengthen in crucial areas and a lot of money was wasted.
Although it has been a horrendous season at the Stadium of Light, they still have a slim chance of survival. They need to win 4 of their final 6 matches. It looks unlikely considering they are facing tough trips to Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, but one result on the road could be enough. Their remaining home matches are against Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea, all of whom are beatable, but Sunderland have struggled in such matches this season. If they do go down, they have everything to come back stronger. They have: a good Championship manager, who has the potential to become a Premier League boss; a wealthy owner; a big stadium; a loyal fan-base and a good spine of a side. However they need to be more efficiently run than they have been.