Sam Allardyce replaces Dick Advocaat as Sunderland manager after the latter kept the Black Cats up in an action-packed 2014/15 season, but was unable to help the club forward this term.
Sunderland performed a remarkable escape act in 2013/14, but fans hoping for a less dramatic campaign last season were left disappointed – as the Black Cats could only secure their Premier League status in the second last game of the season.
Over the summer, Advocaat worked on clearing up the last of the mess left by Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet after their ill-fated spells in charge at the Stadium of Light.
Poyet was quick to get rid of some of the deadwood in the squad, but despite his recruitment drive over the summer, he was shown the door part-way through the season with relegation a real possibility.
Advocaat’s arrival heralded an upturn in fortune, however Sunderland have started badly and will once agiain be involved in a relegation battle this season according to most bookmakers.
Sunderland have finished in the bottom half in seven of their eight seasons in the Premier League since they were promoted in 2007 and, with the strength of the teams around them in the Premier League, it will be tough for them to break in to the top half this year.
Sunderlands Summer Transfers
Players In (From):
Sebastián Coates (Liverpool)
Adam Matthews (Celtic)
Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kyiv)
Younès Kaboul (Tottenham)
Fabio Borini (Liverpool)
Yann M’Vila (Rubin Kazan)
Ola Toivonen (Rennes)
DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham)
Players Out (To):
El-Hadji Ba (Charlton)
Anthony Reveilliere (free)
Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace)
Sunderland’s achilles heel for the last two seasons has been their lack of goals. Conor Wickham and Jordi Gomez were top of the Sunderland scoring charts, but their measly total of six goals each in all competitions is indicative of the struggle their side faced in front of goal last season.
One positive that Advocaat can draw on from last season is the prowess of Jermain Defoe. The former England forward was only two goals behind the top scoring pair, despite only joining the club in January. With half a season under his belt going in to the new campaign, could Defoe finally be the consistant goal threat that Sunderland have desperately lacked in recent seasons?
Sunderland Top Scorers In 2014/15 (All Comps)
Connor Wickham – 6 Goals
Jordi Gomez – 6 Goals
Steven Fletcher – 5 Goals
Adam Johnson – 5 Goals
Jermain Defoe – 4 Goals
Sebastian Larsson – 3 Goals
Jack Rodwell – 3 Goals
They may have already strengthened their striking options with the arrival of Defoe in January and the return of Fabio Borini is sure to please most supporters, but Sunderland have strengthened in other departments since the transfer window opened again.
Uruguayan defender Sebastien Coates should have no problems settling in at the Stadium of Light, having spent last season on loan at the club from Liverpool. Sunderland’s options in the middle of the park have also been bolstered with Advocaat’s acquisition of Adam Matthews from Scottish champions Celtic. Loan deals to bring in Yann M’Vila, Ola Toivonen and DeAndre Yedlin have added depth and quality to the squad and should any of that trio impress, then a permenant move could be in the offing.
Even though their league form was poor in 2013/14, Sunderland embarked on a good FA Cup run. Sunderland got as far as the Fifth Round, before going down 0-2 to defiant underdogs Bradford City – as the League One side’s second Premier League scalp after Chelsea in the previous round.
While the Black Cats finished as League Cup runners-up in 2013/14, they were unable to repeat their Wembley heroics after losing 1-2 to Stoke in the Third Round. The odds of another inspired cup performance this season is slim, with the bookies placing Sunderland well down the list of favourites to win either Cup.
However, as Bradford proved against Sunderland, the magic of the cup is still alive and kicking and Sunderland will be hoping they can benefit from another Cup run during this campaign. There are bound to be plenty of Sunderland fans would take finishing in the bottom half for another year if it meant another day out at Wembley.