Sunderland’s annual flirtation with relegation is edging increasingly close to becoming a fully fledged affair with the Championship. For the majority of the seasons since Martin O’Neill left the club, the Black Cats have had to pull off last ditch relegation escapes. Teeth gritting performances have wrestled them away from danger on numerous occasions and this has often been accompanied by the appointment of a new, short-term manager.
The brief hope under O’Neill that Sunderland could become something more than a bottom-half side was short lived. A 13th placed finish in 2011/12 was followed by the nearest of relegation misses in 2012/13 and that has, on the whole, been the norm ever since.
Under David Moyes, Sunderland have notched a grand total of two points from their first eight Premier League games. Scoring only six goals along the way and conceding 15, Moyes’ side have failed offensively and been fortunate not to concede more. The failings of the current side are tricky to address with the squad available and, despite what Moyes may say publicly, there are few signs of improvement. To give a real indication of their woes offensively, only two players have found the net in the Premier League this season – one of those is left back Patrick van Aanholt, who has scored two of their six.
With a trip to an improving West Ham side next up in the league, things won’t be getting much easier. Following the trip to the London Stadium, there is a distracting EFL Cup game against Southampton and the daunting prospect of the visit of Arsenal. Although November’s first two fixtures are notably easier for the Black Cats, Moyes is unlikely to make it to next month if he doesn’t at least avoid defeat in two of the three remaining October matches.
Eventually, the panicked managerial appointment formula will fail to save Sunderland. It may not be this season, it may not be for quite some time yet, but their current state is clearly not sustainable. David Moyes seems like a man short on confidence that they can survive and he has given indications that he was not fully aware of the squad’s weaknesses when he took the role. Sunderland’s only saving grace this season might be that there may be three worse teams who eill disappear into the abyss of the bottom three instead.
Sunderland’s innate lack of quality sets them back significantly. Relegation, if it is not already, has to be deemed a serious threat for the Black Cats. We might not have made it to our advent calendars just yet, but the early signs are present to suggest Sunderland could be without a hope by the time we are tucking into our turkey.