Oh, how terrible it must be to be a Sunderland fan these days. The club is in disarray and looks like they could be sinking to their second relegation in just two years. They could be stepping foot in League One for the first time since the 1988/90 season, and that would be a real setback for a club of this magnitude. But will this become a reality come the end of the season?
The club has been in turmoil since Paolo Di Canio left but some may argue it has been longer than that. Since the Italian was sacked, the board went through Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat, Sam Allardyce, David Moyes and Simon Grayson all in under five years. It really is a poisoned chalice especially since Moyes took over who was the first manager since Kevin Ball (caretaker manager after Mick McCarthy was sacked in February 2006) took the Black Cats out of the top division in the 2005/06 season. So why did Chris Coleman leave Wales for this?
It is a question still being asked today because he was comfortable with the Welsh National team and had an incredible bond with the players having guided them all the way to the Euro 2016 semi-finals. It does seem he wanted a new challenge after failing to reach the World Cup in Russia but was Sunderland the right choice?
The club has an incredible amount of deadwood on their side and previous manager Grayson brought in players on a shoestring budget who frankly are not good enough. Just after the arrival of Grayson, several high profile players came under scrutiny following a drunken video from midfielder Darron Gibson who questioned the commitment of the players from the previous season. He for one was just as much at fault, but he had a point, these players are on a lot of money but not performing to the high standard that Sunderland deserve.
A lot of the signings that were made were players of a League One standard, and that is where they are going to end up if they do not start turning the results around under Coleman. Sunderland made four new signings in the January transfer window including Ashley Fletcher from Middlesbrough and goalkeeper Lee Camp. These deadline day signings are real coups for the North East side who need to improve at both ends of the pitch.
Admittedly, Coleman has rejuvenated a very poor side to give them a fighting chance of survival as he has picked up 15 points since he arrived in November; more points than Sunderland had all season. But the form is patchy with a win only coming here and there as they are unable to record back to back wins. However, on the bright side, against Fulham on 16th December 2017 they picked up their first home win in just under a year; well 364 days to be precise with their last win coming on the 17th December 2016.
In the previous two games, Coleman has set his side up in a 3-5-2 formation allowing him to play with two strikers. This will add much-needed firepower considering Sunderland have scored just three goals in their past six fixtures. They have lost Lewis Grabban, their top goal scorer, as the player cut his season-long loan short to join league rivals Aston Villa till the end of the season.
At the time of writing, they are sitting in 23rd place occupying one of the three relegation places. But the gap is not as horrific as it once was for the Black Cats. If results go their way, one win could lift them out of the relegation zone completely as just nine points separate the 24th place side and the 16th side.
It will be a tough slog for Sunderland to avoid relegation and they will find themselves in real bother if they cannot avoid it. Financially there are not stable enough for relegation unless Jack Rodwell is off their books, and their infrastructure will struggle. However, if they manage to win back to back games and add some consistency to their play they might manage to sneak out of the bottom three to keep themselves out of another scrap in League One.