Gus Poyet’s side has enjoyed a rather mixed bag of results throughout October and November with goals in good supply at both ends of the pitch. It is impossible to look past the hugely surprising 8-0 defeat away to high-flying Southampton, however that aside the past two months have seen Sunderland record important victories over Stoke City and Crystal Palace, as well as holding Everton to a 1-1 draw this past weekend.
In my look at Sunderland’s fortunes throughout August and September I again noted that the team had endured a mixed start to the campaign. This is an issue which continues to plague Poyet with his side unable to build any real levels of consistency.
There is not the panic that was present on Wearside this time last year, following Paolo Di Canio’s disastrous start to the 2013-14 season but the inability to put together a string of victories is a worry nonetheless.
The forward line continues to be a source of frustration for Sunderland supporters, as it was in the first months of the season, with Jozy Altidore yet to hit a league goal this season. Steven Fletcher has impressed since his return from injury, netting four league goals however when you consider the likes of Saido Berahino and Diafra Sakho have seven and six goals respectively, it is simply not enough.
In terms of the club’s best performer in October and November it is difficult to pick out one name, especially with the bulk of Sunderland’s perceived star players putting in such a dismal display at St Mary’s. Steven Fletcher’s goals have been important whilst Jordi Gomez sitting just behind Fletcher has added a real dimension of creativity to Sunderland’s play.
Sebastian Larsson has been Sunderland’s most improved player over the course of the last two months. The Swede endured a difficult start to the season but has since found his rhythm and is integral to Sunderland’s attacking play as well as ball retention. Larsson capped off his fine run of form with an exquisite free-kick to give the Black Cats the lead against Everton last Sunday.
Sunderland have a few worries on the injury front with impressive summer signing Patrick van Aanholt requiring shoulder surgery which could keep the Dutchman out of action for up to two months. Van Aanholt had been one of Sunderland’s finer performing defenders prior to his injuries, although he did make a few positional errors.
This injury has forced Gus Poyet to dip into the free-agent market and secure the services of the experienced Frenchman Anthony Reveillere on a contract until the end of the season.
Ricky Alvarez, Emanuele Giaccherini and Billy Jones are all also injured.
With the January transfer window just coming into view, there are a couple of issues Gus Poyet may look at during that period. The Uruguayan coach said he “learned a lot about” a number of his players following the 8-0 defeat by Southampton, and not in a positive way. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple of players move on.
There is set to be a meeting between Poyet and Sporting Director Lee Congerton later this week with the pair likely to discuss possible moves in the market. Full-Backs are likely to be on the agenda with Vergini and Reveillere not fantastic long-term solutions whilst the striking unit is bound to be looked at with Altidore believed to want a move away from the club.
In terms of incomings the forward line desperately needs help, Jozy Altidore has had significant fitness struggles but when fit has added very little in terms of goals. When you see the likes of Sakho excellent at West Ham you do wonder whether Sunderland could produce a similar masterstroke with a forward this January.
Best Starting XI: 4-1-4-1
Rating: 2 out of 5
It’s been a similar story to last season in many ways. Sunderland have struggled for consistency and remain an unpredictable outfit. The 8-0 drubbing at the hands of Southampton was nothing sort of a disgrace, however, other performances have given the supporters hope. Extremely difficult to predict where they’ll end up, but it’s fair to say it’ll be a rocky ride.
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