Sunderland aren’t exactly the most glamorous side, whether that be their manager Sam Allardyce, ex-manager Dick Advocaat or their playing style.
Granted, in the past, they occasionally surprise the big teams by beating them, but they have been struggling a lot this season in the Premier League.
Sadly those struggles look set to continue, with the future of Adam Johnson’s career in the hands of the courts, and the rumours that Emmanuel Eboue could soon be linking up with the club. This season has been one of real disappointment, with Sunderland’s only positive being a win against Newcastle.
The threat of relegation really hangs over Sunderland, who only missed the drop by 3 points last season, with the North-East side currently in 19th with 20 points. Can they pull off the impossible again, like they did with Di Canio three years ago, with Poyet two years ago, and Advocaat last year, or have the Black Cats had the last of their 9 lives?
Allardyce may have steadied the ship after taking the wheel from Advocaat, but is in one hell of a battle to avoid the drop. Sunderland will be thankful that out of the top 5, they only have Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester United left to play. They no longer have Connor Wickham or Steven Fletcher to fire them to glory, but they do have Jermaine Defoe, one of the Premier League’s deadliest strikers on his day who can still put in a shift.
It will be his goals they will count upon in order to fire them up the table, and with no FA Cup distraction they can put all their attention upon the league. Considering they are only 4 points off safety, it is not impossible. However a lot depends on the teams above them. Other than Villa, Sunderland have the weakest squad out of all the relegation candidates.
You would feel that Bournemouth, who have beaten Sunderland already this season and drawn, will be safe, as well as Swansea. It will be teams like West Brom, Norwich and Newcastle who will be their main threats, and Sunderland still have to play all three. Unfortunately for them, only one of these ties will be at home, but these matches will be real relegation dog fights.
With seven home matches left, Sunderland will be hoping that their fans can roar the team onto success. With their next match against an inconsistent Manchester United side, it is possible that Sunderland could cause an upset and kick start their long road to safety. It is the home games where they will really look to cause the damage and gain the points that could potentially save them.
However as we have seen with teams like Wigan and Norwich in the past, you can only stare danger in the face for so long, and this could be the year where Sunderland go down. Although their squad does have some quality in the likes of Defoe, Kone and Yan M’Vila, you do feel that it will struggle to cope with the battle. Players like Brown, O’Shea, and their goalkeepers Mannone and Pantilimon are so inconsistent that there can be no solidity at the back.
Should Sunderland beat United, you feel it could give them the momentum to beat the drop. However it will be a very long battle, and will very much rely on other teams above them dropping points.