Sam Allardyce arrived at Sunderland having been left in little doubt as to the task ahead of him.
Here, Press Association Sport considers some of the major issues in the new manager’s in-tray as he looks to turn the Black Cats’ season around.
The Stadium of Light has been a graveyard for Sunderland’s hopes in recent seasons. They have won just 14 of the last 61 Barclays Premier League games they have played on home soil, and that has proved hugely damaging. With points on the road difficult to come by at the best of times, the Black Cats must make more of what has at times in the past been a fortress for them if they are to get themselves out of trouble.
If one word sums up Allardyce’s management style, it is “organization”, and his ability to set up a team to be difficult to beat could go a long way to determining how successful or otherwise he is on Wearside. His attention to detail will prove invaluable as he attempts to shore up a defense short on pace in the middle and lacking in experience out wide to stem the tide of goals which has seen the club concede 18 times in just eight league outings to date this season.
Sunderland’s recent record suggests that, if the opposition scores first, they will not lose, and that is down in part to confidence. Not since their trip to Chelsea on April 19, 2014, when Samuel Eto’o fired the home side into a 14th-minute lead, have the Black Cats come from behind to win a league game with Connor Wickham and Fabio Borini’s penalty doing the trick that day in the midst of Gus Poyet’s great escape. That is something Allardyce must change as a matter of urgency with the side he inherited from Dick Advocaat having squandered a 2-0 lead against West Ham to draw 2-2 last time out.
Advocaat was openly critical of the club’s recent recruitment policy in the wake of his departure, voicing his belief that the current squad is simply not good enough. What is clear is that the six quality signings he wanted during the summer did not arrive with the likes of Yann M’Vila, Jeremain Lens and Ola Toivonen having hit the ground running, but others not. There is little the club can do before January, other than look at the likes of out-of-contract players such as Kevin Nolan and Carlton Cole – who are well-known to their new manager – but January could be a very important month for them.
The Black Cats effectively spent around B£6million on former England frontman Defoe when they did a swap deal with MLS side Toronto as Jozy Altidore headed in the opposite direction in January, handing the newcomer a lucrative pay packet and a remit to fire them out of trouble. He currently has six goals in his 23 appearances to date for the club, a return which reflects the way in which he has been used, particularly by Advocaat, who more often than not played him wide in a three-man frontline. Most of Defoe’s success throughout his career has come playing centrally off a big man and it remains to be seen where and how Allardyce will use a player who is potentially his most potent weapon.
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