Despite most observers expecting a mid-table finish or better for Sunderland, the 12/1 betting odds currently available on the Black Cats going down at bwin.com could soon be far shorter. And here’s why.
Sunderland is a club with a history of overspending leading to big regrets and this latest transfer window has done nothing to deter that philosophy. In a transfer league table ranging from 2003 to 2011, Sunderland sit seventh, having spent just over £151 million. And most of it seems to go on the definition of ‘average’ players – a tactic which has continued this summer with the recruitments of Connor Wickham, Seb Larsson, Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Craig Gardner.
The worry for Sunderland fans will be where the goals will come from this term. After all, their main marksman, Asamoah Gyan, is 66-1 on bwin.com to be top Premier League goalscorer. Darren Bent made up half of the 48 goals Sunderland scored in the 2009-10 season and they will now undergo their first full campaign without him.
Gyan is a great player but he simply can’t be deployed as a lone striker like he was at Liverpool in their opening fixture last weekend. He needs a partner. Which brings me on to Wickham. An exciting young player, but, and excuse the cliché, the step up to the Premier League is huge and terrorising any centre-back in this division isn’t going to be easy.
Whoever boss Steve Bruce decides to lead the line with, they need service and creativity is not one of Sunderland’s fortes. They were unable to get one player in the top 20 assists league table last season. The players brought in to address this do not inspire confidence. Stephane Sessegnon shows talent right up until the opposition’s penalty area, where he does his best to spoil a good move with a terrible final ball.
Admittedly, this is not a problem shared by Larsson, but his ability to completely let games pass him by must be a worry for Bruce. Gardner and Lee Cattermole couldn’t create a breeze in a wind turbine, let a lone dominate a midfield, so the signing of a playmaker such as Niko Kranjcar from Tottenham is desperately required in this area, in my opinion.
They will encounter problems defensively too. Brown’s excellent display at Anfield will be the exception rather than the rule, if his error-strewn final couple of seasons at Manchester United are anything to go by. He could be partnered by one of Michael Turner, Anton Ferdinand and Titus Bramble – none of whom inspire confidence that the Black Cats will be tight at the back this term.
Sunderland will not do as well as some pundits are making out. If they struggle to find goals, the Stadium of Light faithful will get on the back of Bruce and a slide down the table will inevitably come at some point. Whether that leads to relegation remains to be seen, but they certainly seem too long at their current price.
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