Sunderland have begun their Premier league campaign with successive 2-1 defeats against Manchester City and on Sunday against Premier League new boys Middlesbrough.
The defeat against Boro is not the only thing that the Black Cats have to be concerned about at the moment.
At the beginning of the season, I wrote an editorial about the size and strength of the Black Cats squad. By boss David Moyes’ own admission his squad is now threadbare, despite the Scot making recent signings.
Sunderland’s latest signings gambles
The Sunderland squad is desperately in need of new additions and Moyes has admitted that the club are working on bringing in new signings. Judging by his signings so far he will be either ringing Manchester United or looking at who else Everton have released.
The Scottish boss has brought in centre-back Papy Djilobodji and wingers Adnan Januzaj and Steven Pienaar in recent weeks. All three signings are gambles, but the signing of Pienaar illustrates just how desperate Moyes is to get players through the door.
The South African was once a very good Premier League player, but at 34-years-old he is in the twilight of his career. He was released by Everton earlier this summer, having barely featured for the Toffees in the last few seasons.
Pienaar’s arrival has obviously been met with a mixed reception from the Black Cats fans because of his age and recent injury record. The signing of the Januzaj was slightly more exciting, as he is regarded as a bright youngster who has not yet fulfilled his potential. He will no doubt be given more first-team football with the north east club.
The signing of Djilobodji could go either way, as the centre-back has not played much football in the Premier League. Chelsea bought him last summer, but joined German club Werder Bremen in the January transfer window, having failed to start a top-flight game.
Small squad made worse by injuries
For the Middlesbrough game, the Black Cats were without a number of players through injuries, including Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole, Sebastian Larsson, Billy Jones and Lamine Kone, who reportedly has rejected an offer of a new contract amid Everton interest.
The injury situation got worse for the Black Cats during the game, as experienced centre-back John O’Shea was substituted after just 37 minutes after picking up a knock. Jack Rodwell then moved back into the centre of defence, as Moyes centre-back options were very limited.
Even when the Black Cats have a clean bill of health their squad is not that big or brimming with quality players. The players who arrived in the January transfer window and made such a difference Kone, Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri were missing for the Black Cats for one reason or another against Boro.
Moyes needs to be backed in the transfer market and given some time to get to know the club. I suspect much will depend on whether Kone leaves the club this summer, as the club’s owners have not exactly shown a willingness to spend big this summer.
In their annual relegation battle
Moyes admitted after the Middlesbrough defeat that the club are likely to be in the relegation battle once again this season. Not exactly encouraging, but at least it was an honest assessment of the Black Cats situation.
It would not be a major surprise for the club from the north east to be fighting against the drop considering their recent performances in the top-flight.
Sunderland are now odds of 11/8 to be relegated, making them the third favourites to go down this season with the bookmakers, but there is nothing new there. The Black Cats enjoy an annual great escape and beat the odds on a regular basis. However, there is only so many times that you can play with fire and not get burnt.
Sunderland’s survival this season will be based on there actually being three worse teams than the Black Cats this season. Despite it being early in the campaign, it does not look good for Moyes team.
The Scot brought stability to Everton on his arrival. He has to do the same thing at the Stadium of Light or the club could be in for a very long and potentially disappointing campaign ahead.
Can Sunderland beat the drop this season?