With just nine games left to go, is it too late for change at Sunderland, and are they destined for the bottom three?
Resemblances will be drawn with Sunderland’s current situation to that of the latter half of the 2012/13 season.
The powers that be have given newly-appointed coach Dick Advocaat just two more games than Paolo Di Canio was afforded at the beginning of his tenure, following on from Martin O’Neill at the end of 2013. He has nine games to turn things around for the north-east club.
The question now is can the former PSV and Rangers coach produce a reaction to preserve Sunderland’s Premier League status? Looking at his most recent posting with the Serbian national side, having come out of retirement, it doesn’t look good as his stint in charge there lasted less than six months.
Lack of Premier League experience will also be a major concern surrounding the Dutchman.
Advocaat’s first top flight task will be away to West Ham today.
They face them at arguably the best possible time, as Sam Allardyce’s Hammers have seen their season tail away in recent weeks and months. They have lost their last three games and are one of the Premier League’s most poor performing sides at present.
They still won’t be expected to win but a reaction will be wanted from the new boss.
With winnable games against Leicester, Crystal Palace and Stoke City to come, Sunderland can stay out of relegation worry but having to play Arsenal and Chelsea away from home in their last two games, it is not looking very promising for the Black Cats.
It may already be too late to make a change and although this decision has been made in more time than Gus Poyet’s appointment last season, there is a sense the problems are already too big to fix.
The result against Aston Villa optimised the problems that have dogged this side throughout the season. Against another side perilously close to the drop zone, they would have expected to at least manufacture a draw at home but instead they were steamrolled in the first 45 minutes.
It worked at the end of a turbulent 2012/13 season when a reaction came immediately but will it work again? This club was on the brink last season as well let’s not forget. These players would have learned a lot about resilience and will pull off some results before the season is out but it is difficult at this point in time to see them staying up.
Advocaat has pointed to organisation as the key element in keeping Sunderland up, when speaking to The Telegraph,
“In terms of organisation, it is not that difficult to bring the players into step, so that everybody knows what to do. If we are to going to win games, they have to do that. The organisation is the most important thing in football, then you can add the individual skills of the players.
“I have never been relegated. I always have the feeling that I will never go down. I have been close, but that was when I was a very young manager.”
This statement from the Dutchman exudes an authority, and a confidence that his new side can stave off the threat of relegation. Is this realistically achievable? This writer thinks not based on recent results.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Ben Harding. (Sunderland vs Newcastle – Warmup) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons