Yesterday Sunderland suffered a 2-1 loss at Norwich that leaves the North East outfit just one point and one place outside the Premier League relegation zone.
It’s all a long way away from when manager Martin O’Neill’s arrival in the North East was heralded as the start of an exciting new era.
One of Sunderland’s biggest problems this season has been scoring goals. In recent weeks the Black Cats have started scoring goals, but they are still too reliant on Steven Fletcher to find the net.
If Steven Fletcher has an off-day, or gets injured like he did against Norwich then Sunderland don’t look to have much of an attacking threat. The Black Cats have found the net just 13 times this season.
Unfortunately the Sunderland defence are not much better. The Black Cats are conceding goals at an alarming rate and at the moment look like they are miles away from keeping a clean sheet.
Not scoring and conceding lots of goals is a recipe for disaster and more importantly relegation. Manager Martin O’Neill will be a worried man at the moment.
When Martin O’Neill first arrived at the club he inspired a revival on Wearside. The club were struggling when the Ulsterman arrived, but he helped the club to move up away from the relegation zone to midtable.
O’Neill is regarded as an excellent tactician and a good man-motivator. These skills really did help in his early days at the Stadium of Light. Unfortunately, this season hasn’t gone the way he would have wanted it to.
The former-Celtic boss is going to need all those managerial skills to bring the team out of their current slump. The new manager effect has now worn off and the team looks slightly stale.
Currently O’Neill doesn’t look capable of bringing his team out of their current rut, despite proving in the past that he does have good managerial ability. The mark of a good manager is being able to help a team out of a poor run of form.
The next few weeks will tell us a lot about Sunderland and in particular their complicated boss.
Sunderland does have a very decent squad of players and should be far higher in the Premier League table. I would have thought that Martin O’Neill would have been the perfect manager to bring the best out of the players he has at his disposal.
The Sunderland squad is full of international players, but it seems that the majority of the squad are underperforming.
Martin O’Neill has spent money since his arrival in the North East. He brought in Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher for a combined fee in the region of £25million in the summer. Both players are highly-rated and should prove to be good signings in the long-term.
Fletcher has already started to repay his fee by scoring six Premier League goals this season, four more than his next highest scoring teammate, midfielder Craig Gardner.
Johnson was in-demand this summer, but a return to his native North East and the prospect of regular first team football convinced Johnson to join the Black Cats. The winger has the potential to be a top player.
However, his form has proved inconsistent this season. He has the ability in his locker to create chances for his teammates. He could be one of the players to inspire a comeback this season.
If Sunderland’s form doesn’t improve then Martin O’Neill could be out of a job. The Ulsterman can’t afford to fail at Sunderland. Should he fail in the North East then O’Neill will have few options left in management.
Prior to moving to Sunderland the former-Villa boss had a big reputation. When he was at Villa there was even talk of him succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. He was even being linked with the vacant England job in the summer.
This season has been very damaging to his reputation and if he gets sacked by Sunderland the damage to his reputation could be everlasting. Martin O’Neill could be cast out into the managerial wilderness and find it tough to get another Premier League job.
However throughout his managerial career Martin O’Neill has proved to be a shrewd manager. He has to turn things around, as the alternative is unthinkable.
Can Martin O’Neill turn things around at Sunderland?