When Sunderland lined up to face Chelsea on Saturday not many could have predicted the outcome. Although they had not recorded a win in their prior 7 games, 3 of them had been draws and with Chelsea understrength due to players being at the African Cup of Nations it was thought the game would at least be competitive.
What was to play out for the next 90 minutes could only be classed as a slaughter as Chelsea were merciless in putting 7 past a sorry Sunderland side.
The result only served to highlight one of the Premier League’s biggest enigmas, what exactly is wrong with Sunderland?
In Steve Bruce the club have a good, young manager who has experience at a number of clubs. Having done well in spells at Birmingham and Wigan, there are some that are touting the former Manchester United defender to assume a position in the club’s hot seat at some point down the line.
They have a solid squad with players like Michael Turner, Steed Malbranque, Lorik Cana, Andy Reid, Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones all plying their trade at the Stadium of Light.
This season the team have produced some solid performances and after a strong showing at Old Trafford where despite drawing 2-2 with Manchester United they could very easily have come away from the game with all 3 points, they would go on to record wins over both Liverpool (in controversial fashion albeit) and Arsenal.
So where does the problem lie?
Sunderland, in my opinion, on paper look like they have a squad that should be competing for a place in Europe its not as simple as to say that they are underachieving but dropping points to relegation strugglers like Wigan and Pompey is not acceptable for a side like Steve Bruce’s.
Injury and suspension have hit them hard as they have recorded 1 win 12. Lee Cattermole, Craig Gordon, Nyron Nosworthy, Anton Ferdinand, Andy Reid and John Mensah are all injured and Michael Turner is still serving part of a ridiculous 4 game ban.
Yet I would not bet against Sunderland, when they have a full squad to choose from, finding some sort of consistency in their form that is befitting of the quality of their team.