It is official: Sunderland’s ten-year stay in the top flight of English football is over.
The Black Cats will compete in the Championship next season after a one-nil defeat to Bournemouth last weekend condemned David Moyes’ side to the drop.
If truth be told, most football fans predicted that Sunderland would go down before Christmas; they have struggled to inspire confidence throughout the entire campaign. In years gone by, the Black Cats have managed to avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth but Moyes was unable to inspire a ‘great escape’ this time around.
With arch rivals Newcastle United securing promotion back to the top flight, it is a double kick in the teeth for Sunderland fans who have stuck with their side through thick and thin. So, why have the Black Cats failed to prepare adequately to survive in England’s top flight?
Sunderland relied too heavily on Jermain Defoe
Football is a team sport but Sunderland’s hopes of achieving any form of success in recent years have sat with Jermain Defoe’s form. When the 34-year-old is good, he is very good but Sunderland need so much more than one man.
Without Defoe, who would step up to score the goals? According to Soccerway, the former Tottenham man has bagged 14 goals so far this season; Sunderland’s second highest scorer is Victor Anichebe with three. If the Black Cats had managed to sign Blackburn striker Sam Gallagher earlier this season, Sunderland might have stood a better chance of avoiding the drop.
The Black Cats shot themselves in the foot by relying too much on Defoe. In addition, the service into Defoe has been very poor at times. The likes of Adnan Januzaj, Sebastian Larsson and Fabio Borini have been particularly bad.
Sunderland’s struggles have been well documented over the last few years. Relying on one man was always going to catch up with them in the end, even with Defoe managing to hit double figures for the campaign.
Relegation has been inevitable for a few years
As previously mentioned, most neutrals expected Sunderland to suffer relegation this year; especially with Moyes at the helm. While he performed well at Everton, he looks a broken man after failed spells at Manchester United and Real Sociedad.
This was a final chance at redemption for the Scot but it was almost an impossible task. Former boss Sam Allardyce, now of Crystal Palace, left Sunderland in a sticky situation last summer and Moyes had next to no time remaining in the transfer window to rebuild the squad.
According to research conducted by bookmaker Betway, a punter placing a £10 wager on Sunderland to win every game would be £125 down over the course of the season. That makes them the second worst underperformer in the Premier League, after only the Ramsdens-sponsored Middlesbrough. If nothing else, this shows just how bleak Sunderland’s position is. When the Black Cats have managed to win games, they haven’t managed to build on that. In the relegation battle, momentum and confidence is key and Sunderland’s miserable run is now over. This has been on the cards for at least three or four years; they’ve always flirted with relegation but just about managed to stay up.
Middlesbrough 1 Sunderland 0: David Moyes’ great escape attempt becomes mission impossible https://t.co/jXH3RS1koh
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) April 26, 2017
Can Sunderland bounce back at the first time of asking?
Whether Moyes will stay as Sunderland boss or not, it is now time for the Black Cats board to start focusing on life in the Championship. Keeping key players, including Jordan Pickford, will be tough but Sunderland must try to keep some talent at the Stadium of Light. According to The Sun, Newcastle are contemplating a bid for the youngster this summer; and the Black Cats will do their utmost to fend off interest.
Falling into England’s second tier and coming straight back up is no easy feat; just ask Wigan Athletic and Leeds United, but Sunderland will fancy their chances if they are astute in the transfer market. Jermain Defoe’s impending departure will force Sunderland to look for a new leading star upfront and a proven second-tier striker may be the way to go.
Somebody like Jordan Rhodes, who endured a disappointing stint at Middlesbrough before going out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday earlier this season, would fit the bill.
The Scotland man has been there and done it all at this level and paying over the odds to acquire Rhodes is a risk worth taking.
While Wednesday may be keen to sign the 27-year-old on a full term contract, Sunderland might be able to lure him to the Stadium of Light with the promise of a lucrative deal and a chance at automatic promotion back to the Premier League.
Rhodes would be THE perfect addition if Defoe leaves this summer.