Team Profile: Sunderland
Sky Sports predicted finish: 11th
Ground:Stadium of Light
Sunderland's Premier League season ended with a whimper as they failed to win any of their last eight games of the campaign. There was also disappointment in the FA Cup as the Black Cats were beaten by Everton in a quarter-final replay at the Stadium of Light after seemingly doing the hard work at Goodison Park. But while the season may have fizzled out, most on Wearside remain optimistic - aware that Martin O'Neill hauled the team away from a relegation battle when he took over in December.
The immediate impact O'Neill had following his appointment was a testament to the motivational skills of the former Celtic and Aston Villa boss. Sunderland claimed an astonishing seven victories from O'Neill's first 10 Premier League games in charge, having won just five of the previous 28. As indicated by the latter stages of last season, keeping that up could prove problematic. With funds at a premium, the challenge for O'Neill could be motivating himself as much as motivating his players.
Key Ins and Outs
- Carlos Cuellar - free
- Asamoah Gyan - undisc
- Craig Gordon - free
- Michael Turner - £1.5m
Two goals in quick succession earned the forward a surprise England call-up against Holland in February. But they remain the only two occasions the 24-year-old has found the net in the past two seasons. The former Manchester United trainee needs a strong season.
Sunderland's player of the year last season contributed far more than just his seven Premier League goals. With his pace and dribbling skills, the Benin international is the man charged with making things happen at the Stadium of Light.
The long-time England international showed his class in his first season with the Black Cats. Sunderland conceded just 22 goals in the 20 Premier League games in which Brown featured and their form dipped alarmingly following his injury in January.
Last Match vs Tottenham
Sunday 19th May 2013
Strengths & weaknesses
Sunderland were defensively solid last season, conceding just 46 goals in the Premier League - the same as Chelsea and fewer than Arsenal. O'Neill's men are likely to be strong once again with the only defensive change being the arrival of Cuellar to replace Turner. But they will need to improve offensively as the plan of hoping Sessegnon conjures something from nothing is hardly a strategy. With Nicklas Bendtner gone, both creativity and goalscoring quality is required.
O'Neill's desperation for a striker has seen him reportedly bid upwards of £10m for Wolves' Steven Fletcher. It's certainly an area of concern for Sunderland with the heady days of Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan now seeming an age away. Fraizer Campbell's fragility will be a worry and with Brown struggling through pre-season, injuries could yet prove costly if new signings aren't forthcoming.
What they say
Martin O'Neill on Newcastle's success - "If it hasn't upped the ante, it certainly should do. That's something we want to emulate as quickly as possible."
Carlos Cuellar - "It was an easy decision, having worked with the manager before. I know the way Martin O'Neill likes to work and the way he wants to play."
- James McClean - @JMcC_23
- Lee Cattermole - @cattermole_lee
- Fraizer Campbell - @FraizerCampbell
- Carlos Cuellar - @Cuellar24
- Connor Wickham - @ConnorWickham10
May 22nd, 2013 11:00pm
Transfer News - 22nd May
Kate Riley brings you all the latest football transfer news.
Facts and Figures
5Sunderland scored five goals from direct free kicks last season despite only attempting 15
6Sunderland attempted just six short corners in 2011/12, the lowest number of all teams
824Sunderland attempted the most tackles and made the most successful tackles (627)
186The Black Cats also showed their defensive resolve by making most blocks
28Percentage of the goals Sunderland conceded were headers, the highest proportion
I think Martin O'Neill overachieved last year and that might put a bit of pressure on. After a great start to his tenure they petered out towards the end of the season. It's up to the owner to go and buy some more players because that group overachieved last year and it will be a long season for Sunderland otherwise. Put it this way, I don't expect to see them challenging for the top six.