Gus Poyet and Sunderland face a tough few weeks ahead as they aim to improve on what has been a less than impressive beginning to this season’s Premier League campaign.
The Black Cats boss performed a miracle last season by keeping the Wearside club in the Premier League and reaching the League Cup final.
However, this term Poyet is sure to come under more fire because he has made his own stamp on the club, bringing in a number of new signings. It was always going to be a struggle for Poyet however, having to rebuild a squad capable of surviving comfortably in the Premier League following Paulo Di Canio’s tenure at the club.
Having signed defenders like Patrick Van Aanholt and Sebastian Coates one would have hoped that Sunderland would shore up a defence which leaked 60 goals in the Premier League last season.
So far though, Coates hasn’t featured much with Poyet selecting Wes Brown and John O’Shea more frequently at the back. Van Aanholt has made eleven appearances but now looks set for a three month layoff with a shoulder problem. The defence hasn’t improved much as a whole either. Now eleven games into the season; Sunderland have won just two games, conceding 19 goals already.
At the other end of the pitch things aren’t much better with only 12 goals having been scored this term; Steven Fletcher with four of those, becoming the Black Cats’ top scorer so far this season.
Gus Poyet, for many was seen as a man who could change the way Sunderland play and help them become a fluid, attack-minded team. However, this season this hasn’t been the case and in front of goal they will need more than the odd Steven Fletcher goal to keep them afloat.
The next few week’s will be tough for Poyet as he must pick up something against Leicester City before facing an almighty task of facing Chelsea and Manchester City at home as well as an away trip to Liverpool. Then on the 21st of December the Tyne-Wear derby will take centre stage.
Ahead of these games, Sunderland sit just three points above the relegation zone in 14th position with 12 points. These fixtures will tell us a lot about this Sunderland side and how Poyet can manufacture a turnaround. Shoots of positivity come from their two previous encounters however – a win over over Crystal Palace away and a home draw with Champions League chasers Everton.
However, Poyet will need to build on this in the coming fixtures or the North East side will be in jeopardy heading into the Christmas period. Signs are that things aren’t going to improve massively, looking at Poyet’s record in the Premier League. He has won just 12 of the 42 matches he has managed and lost 17, giving him a win percentage of 29%.
This writer is a fan of the philosophy with which Poyet likes his teams to play but whether that philosophy works with the group of players he has is in doubt.
The January transfer window now becomes quite significant if Sunderland are to right the wrongs of their season so far. The Chronicle Live reports that Poyet held a meeting last week with sporting director Lee Congerton to plan who he aims to bring to the club in January.
It is no secret Poyet needs to improve his side’s goal tally and that is something the Black Cats boss is contemplating heading into the window.
“Players we’re looking at are probably the style of player that are strikers who can play wide.
“That doesn’t mean Connor [Wickham] isn’t doing well. He’s been doing unbelievable for us and doing something we were not expecting.
“He linked very well with Steven Fletcher in pre-season and they’ve been giving us some presence.
“They were both outstanding against Stoke.
“If they score 10 each between now and January, maybe we won’t buy anyone.”
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image by John Davidson [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons