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We were all so optimistic. We thought that this season would finally be the one where we kicked on and where we started to dream about Thursday nights in some exotic city in Eastern Europe.
Oh how wrong we were.
Instead were nervously looking over our shoulder, with the possibility of rainy away days in some industrial town in the championship. It’s hard supporting Sunderland. But should we really start to worry about the dreaded R word, or are we just on a dismal run of form?
The problem with the season so far is the extensive list of players under-performing. With new and exciting additions, the front quartet of Sessegnon, McClean, Johnson and Fletcher looked like they could cause problems to any back line. But it’s been far from that, with Fletcher the only player deserving praise after his five goals. McClean lacks the confidence that we saw when he burst to the scene last year, Sessegnon’s silky skills has deserted him while Johnson is yet to find his groove.
This has led to an appalling scoring record. Adam Johnson’s goal against Everton was the first goal by a Sunderland player in 444 minutes. That stretches all the way back to September. And if it wasn’t for Demba Ba (Sunderland’s joint second highest scorer) it would be a lot, lot worse.
Defensively, it could have been a lot worse. Danny Rose and Carlos Cuellar have had steady starts while O’Shea and Gardener are trying their best. But without doubt, Mingolet has been Sunderland’s player of the season so far. The Belgian stopper is the reason that the Black Cats aren’t in the relegation zone.
With one win in eighteen league games, Sunderland are in horrid relegation form. On paper we have the players, the manager and the fans but on the pitch it’s the total opposite. Players are under-performing while O’Neill seems to lack a real plan B. Far too many times this season, Sunderland are playing far too defensively. A massive shame considering the players we have up front.
So will Sunderland get relegated? No. Thankfully there are teams worse than the Black Cats and it’s only a matter of time till the attacking players start performing. But Sunderland fans should still be worried. Too many times in recent years we have been fighting it out near the bottom, and even though we have a squad capable of a top half finish, we find ourselves just above the relegation zone. Maybe that’s just the Sunderland way and it’s always going to be like that.
Optimism is such a cruel feeling.
Written by Craig Lishman
Follow him on Twitter @CraigLishman
Check out his excellent blog here: http://craiglishman.wordpress.com/
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