Indeed, it’s become almost an annual tradition for the Black Cats to start their Premier League campaign terribly and let the rest of the division get a massive head start before clawing their way to back safety with no time to spare.
With so much money circling in the Premier League this season, Sunderland may not be so lucky this time around. They’ve already missed out on six valuable points, which could well be the difference in the relegation race come the end of May.
That being said, we are just two games into the new season. There’s plenty of time for new manager David Moyes to turn the ship around and although losing a derby is always incredibly disappointing, there were some positives to take from today’s game.
Always keen on finding the silver lining, we’ve come up with three reasons why it’s not all doom and gloom for the Wearsiders.
It wasn’t a massive part of his philosophy at Everton or Manchester United, but David Moyes has started his Sunderland career by giving chances to young players.
That’s perhaps epitomised best by the introduction of Joel Osoro from the bench, making the teenage forward Sunderland’s youngest ever player to feature in the Premier League.
Joel Asoro becomes Sunderland’s youngest ever Premier League player, at just 17 years and 117 days. pic.twitter.com/kW5SAVyLl1
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 21, 2016
But furthermore, Patrick van Aanholt, Paddy McNair, Duncan Watmore, Lynden Gooch, Jack Rodwell and Adnan Januzaj all started today and all six are aged 25 or younger.
What’s the significance, I hear you ask? Well, for far too long, Sunderland have relied upon ageing high-earners and absolute mercenaries. With a young team, the Black Cats can establish something they’ve often lacked – a real sense of identity.
Sunderland’s performances in both halves were almost incomparable. During the opening 45 minutes, the Black Cats had just four attempts at goal, none of which were on target, and just 40% possession.
By full time, Sunderland had produced 18 efforts at goal, five on target, and fought their way back to 48% possession. Likewise, they only let Boro have a further three shots in the second half.
It shows this Sunderland side does have quality and a formula that can produce goals. Likewise, credit has to be given to David Moyes, who brought on Jeremain Lens at half-time and changed the Black Cats’ balance by bringing in the Dutchman for a more defensive player in Paddy McNair.
If Sunderland can start their next league fixture with the same venom as the second half this afternoon, they’ll have a good chance of picking up at least a point.
Sunderland fans will undoubtedly be disappointed to see their side miss out on the first six points of the Premier League season, but the fact of the matter is that the Black Cats’ opening two fixtures were particularly tough.
The Wearsiders were unfortunate enough to travel to the Etihad on the opening weekend, facing a City side who seemed almost destined to win Pep Guardiola’s first fixture in charge.
Likewise, derbies are always unpredictable and rarely relate to quality or form. Sure, bragging rights would have been fantastic but it’s better to get a derby defeat out of the way than suffer it at a truly pivotal time of the season – namely, the March-to-May period that’s so crucial in determining the final standings.
Next week, Sunderland travel to Southampton. The Saints are a talented side but they’ve not started the campaign well either; the Black Cats have a great chance of picking up at least a point on the south coast.