Sunderland lost 1-0 against high-flying Everton at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
The defeat was maybe slightly harsh on the home side, as they probably deserved a point, but in the end a Wes Brown own goal was enough to give the visitors maximum points.
The Black Cats are now in deep trouble and are seven points away from safety. Sunderland do have games in-hand on the teams around them, but the more concerning issue is the team’s performances and form in recent months.
The side from the north east have now failed to win in eight games and it is difficult to see where the next win will come from. Their next two games see Gus Poyet’s side visit title contenders Manchester City and Chelsea.
It really is hard to see the Black Cats claiming anything from those trips. Poyet’s side also face a trip to Manchester United. The Black Cats other games are against fellow strugglers Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea, but by the time those games take place it may be too late for the north east club.
This season Sunderland had two very decent cup runs, reaching the Capital One Cup final and the FA Cup quarter-final. However, those runs may have proved a distraction in Sunderland attempting to stay in the top-flight this season.
The trip to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final may have been a good day out for the Black Cats supporters and the team did well to get to the final, but the effort was to no avail as Manchester City defeated the Black Cats.
I was really impressed with Sunderland boss Gus Poyet when he was first appointed. The Black Cats started to pick-up points and looked like they could actually achieve survival this season. However, it has all gone wrong for the Sunderland in the last few months.
Poyet came into a club which had brought in far too many new players in the summer, which obviously upset the balance of the team. In truth not many of those new players have impressed for Sunderland apart from maybe keeper Vito Mannone and on-loan Liverpool forward Fabio Borini.
Paolo Di Canio’s summer recruitment policy was sheer madness. It was a case of quantity, rather than quality. The Italian paid the price for his poor signings by the Black Cats making a terrible start to their Premier League campaign and being stuck to the bottom of the table, which they have never really fully recovered from.
When Gus Poyet came into the club it was obvious that the team needed a lift. The Black Cats boss had time on his side, but he did not have a cohesive unit of players to turn into a team. Instead he had a rag-bag team of new foreign players.
The odds were always against the Uruguayan turning the situation around, despite some good early performances. As he proved at Brighton though he does have some decent managerial skills and it looks likely that he will be at the Stadium of Light next summer, even if the club is relegated to the Championship.
This summer could see a mass exodus of players from Sunderland. The likes of Jack Colback and Phil Bardsley are out of contract and look set to leave the club. Midfielders Craig Gardner and Sebastian Larsson are also out of contract this summer.
Unfortunately for Sunderland, Bardsley has been one of their better performers this season and will probably secure a move to another top-flight club in the summer. Colback is believed to be interesting north east rivals Newcastle and also in-form Everton.
Although the Sunderland squad had a major overhaul last summer, in a strange way a host of players leaving the club may be a blessing in disguise for the Black Cats. There are a lot of players in that Sunderland squad that are deadwood or just not good enough for the Premier League and that is why the team finds themselves in their current predicament.
Maybe the summer will give Gus Poyet the chance to prove his worth to the club and rebuild a team in the Championship that is capable of showing slightly more heart and play a better brand of football next season.
I have a real fondness for Sunderland as a club. The Black Cats strike me as a good family club, which probably plays a big part in their local community. They are now clear favourites to be relegated at odds of 1/12 and it is difficult to argue with the bookmakers on this one. Unfortunately it looks like the Black Cats could be playing second tier football next season.
Can Sunderland pull off a great escape and stave off relegation?