Sunderland in 2014/15 – Black Cats must land on their feet

Read Stoke City in 2014/15 – Bojan will add spark to solidity

Read Swansea in 2014/15 – New defenders needed to Jack up Monk’s squad

Paolo Di Canio spent the summer of 2013 undergoing a complete overhaul with 19 players coming in and 21 players heading out the door either on loan or permanently. A month into the season the eccentric Italian was given his marching orders, and when former-Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet took over the reins, he inherited a disjointed and unsettled squad.

Jozy Altidore struggled to settle into his new club, while Emanuele Giaccherini failed to repay the near £7m spent on him, totalling £15m in underachievement from their marquee signings. They endured a torrid league season, losing 20 games and conceding 60 in total, and indeed were only outside of the relegation zone on goal difference heading into May.

A staggering turn of form in their final run-in saw Poyet’s men pick up points against eventual champions Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd alongside vital wins against fellow relegation battlers Cardiff and West Brom. Many put their horrendous league form down to the distraction of a successful League Cup run, which saw them reach the final, beaten at Wembley by Manuel Pellegrini’s Man City side.

Aims for the season ahead

It sounds like an overwhelming task, but Poyet really does need to improve all areas of the pitch. The Black Cats averaged just over a goal a game last season, while at the back they failed to adequately replace the loss of Belgian keeper Simon Mignolet, conceding either two or three goals on 15 separate occasions. Altidore suffered an unfortunate injury during the World Cup, so Sunderland could do with the powerful American back and finding his socring boots to help their survival charge.

Poyet has taken a chance on ex-Man City midfielder Jack Rodwell for a fee upwards of £11m. It may be shrewd business, or it may be a gamble too far for the high spending North East side who do have a history of spending big money for very little return. Van Aanholt, Billy Jones, Costel Pantilimon and the versatile Jordi Gomez join the squad for the new season, but the Uruguayan may need to further reinforce his forward line and replace the goals by Fabio Borini, despite the good form shown by Connor Wickham at the end of last season.

Key summer signing so far

Jack Rodwell. The former starlet arrives at the Stadium of Light with a few points to prove – that he is over his injury woes, that he still possesses the talent that had many a journalist lauding his performances at Everton,  and that Sunderland were right to splash an eight-figure sum on him. Out of favour at Man City, Rodwell will see the impact his former youth teammate Ross Barkley is having at Goodison Park and Sunderland might reap the benefits of the midfielder’s passion to succeed after a stutter in his career. It may take a while for him to fully regain match fitness, however, having recorded just over 600 minutes of Premier League football during the last two seasons.

Predicted finish: 16th

I see another relegation struggle for Sunderland this season, particularly if they don’t address their goalscoring problems. Fabio Borini doesn’t seem interested in moving to Wearside on a permanent basis, while Altidore won’t score more than double figures. Wickham’s form was encouraging at the end of last season, however, in the wake of Shane Long’s impending move to Southampton, Hull have been sniffing around the forward. Pantilimon will provide competition with Vito Mannone for a starting place in goal, but either man will be facing plenty of shots given the easily penetrated Sunderland backline last season. There are difficult times ahead for the Black Cats and Poyet will have to show he has the talent to stabilise the club.

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  1. […] Read Sunderland in 2014/15 – Black Cats must land on their feet […]

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