Can Sunderland stay out of trouble this year? Here's the lowdown on what's new at the Stadium of Light.
Things looked particularly grim for Sunderland when 1-0 home defeat to Everton left them seven points from safety and bottom of the Premier League in mid-April but a 2-2 draw at Manchester City preceded wins at Chelsea and Manchester United to spark an unlikely escape. Black Cats boss Gus Poyet will be hoping to build on that momentum this season and enjoying a campaign free from relegation fears.
Undoing some of the problems created by the recruitment policy of former director of football Roberto Di Fanti has been a priority but Poyet has made some moves of his own in the market with Jordi Gomez, Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt all looking solid acquisitions. The biggest investment has been the signing of England international Jack Rodwell from Manchester City for an undisclosed fee that is reportedly around the £10million mark.
Given Rodwell’s injury record, the five-year deal handed to the player might be regarded as both generous and risky, but the gamble does come with a significant upside. Rodwell is young enough to fulfil the sort of potential that saw City recruit him the first place and he could be just the sort of dominant presence Sunderland need in the centre of the pitch. With so much of Sunderland’s funds tied up in the deal, its success or failure could prove pivotal to their season.
The miracle escape of last season shouldn’t mask the underlying problems that got the Black Cats into that mess in the first place. This was a team that twice went eight games without a win in last season’s Premier League and it’s more than worth asking the question whether or not Poyet’s changes have been dramatic enough to truly end fears of another relegation battle.
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- Sunderland named the same starting XI in five successive matches between April 16th and May 7th – the longest such run seen in the Premier League in 2013-14.
- Adam Johnson was the only Englishman to score a hat-trick in the Premier League last season.
- Wes Brown was the only player to be given three red cards in the Premier League last season. No player has ever been given more in a single PL campaign.
Gus Poyet said they needed a miracle when they lost to Tottenham and they virtually got one to stay up. It was amazing to see them pull it off, although there was certainly an element of luck in there. I think it will be tight again and they’ll be in the mix for relegation. Jack Rodwell can give them a boost, though. He is a talented, talented footballer. I feel so sorry for him because he’s been so injury prone. I suffered with injuries but they were broken ankles and knees – he has muscle injuries. I’m sure Man City have the best physios and rehab units going and they couldn’t keep him fit so what can Sunderland do differently? I hope they can find a way.
Possible Sunderland XI
- van Aanholt