Eleven new signings, over £20 million spent, just two points from four Premier League games and manager Steve Bruce is now under severe pressure and is facing the axe.
Bruce was 25/1 to be the first manager to go at the start of the season and last week he was still available at odds of 9/1, but this morning SkyBet are now only going 3/1 with Steve Kean still favourite at 1/1.
Chairman Niall Quinn wrote cheque after cheque during the summer as he looked to other clubs such as Stoke who have spent money and earned the dividends. Such successes at the Britannia Stadium are druelled over at the Stadium of Light and the fans and board would so desperately love to experience some glory days.
The answer to all these problems is spent some cash. Connor Wickham, Kieran Westwood, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, David Vaughan, Seb Larsson, Craig Garnder, James McClean, Nicklas Bendnter and Ji Dong-Won have all arrived at Sunderland but fans and the board have been left frustrated and angered by the start to their season. Winless, just two points, a derby defeat to Newcastle, Carling Cup exit and just two goals scored. Could things get much worse for the Black Cats? They currently lie in 16th position and anything less than three points this weekend against Stoke could prove to be the last game in charge for Steve Bruce. The former Man United defender has enjoyed a fairly successful two year spell in the North East and this season the board put the faith in him to take the club forward by handing him a hefty transfer budget.
Despite their summer signings, even before the season started a lot of people were still doubting the quality of the players he signed. Stoke for example have bought players in the past few seasons who have quality and are in their prime. Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios, Matthew Upson and Kenwyne Jones are just a few examples and their spending has resulted in good results and success- a cup final followed by Europa League qualification. Why is that policy of spending not worked at Sunderland?
The simple answer is Steve Bruce’s signings do not have the quality to propel the Black Cats up the table and let them challenge for trophies. John O’Shea and Wes Brown are two of the most experienced defenders in the Premier League and won countless medals between them but both are extremely injury prone and possibly past their best. O’Shea has played just one game for his new club thanks to injury and in that game they kept a clean sheet. There is no doubting their quality but their success at Old Trafford was built around quality players around them. They received protection from the likes of Scholes, Carrick and their midfield and weren’t really exposed as defenders. It is a whole lot different at Sunderland though and in the games they have played so far the goal has been bombarded. They are very good signings no doubt but I think that they need some quality and protection around them and at Sunderland at the minute they aren’t getting that.
The former Birmingham duo of Craig Gardner and Seb Larrson have great ability but both are big club rejects it seems. Gardner was sold by Aston Villa only to resurrect his career at St. Andrews. He has talent but his he the type of player that Sunderland need? They need some big name midfielders who are either young up and coming talents like Henderson or some established Premier League players like Joe Cole for example. It’s the same with Larrson. He was released by Arsenal and despite being impressive for Birmingham I don’t think he is good enough to take Sunderland forward. Gardner and Larrson excelled for a smaller club when the pressure wasn’t as much and they were the stars of the show, now that they are at the Stadium of Light, the fans and board expect victories.
David Vaughan is another prime example. He was decent for Blackpool last season but he certainly is not an outstanding footballer who will excel in the top flight. Connor Wickham was the Championship’s hottest property last season but at just 17 years old has a lot to learn. He is certainly one for the future but at the minute you cannot see him scoring the goals that Sunderland so desperately need. The same with Nicklas Bendnter, despite not featuring a lot for Arsenal, he never was a frequent goal scorer and is a frustrating player. Wickham and Bendnter are at the minute no where near Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan who Bruce has lost recently. They need a striker who is going to score ten or more goals a season and I cannot see Wickham or Bendtner doing that.
A lot of people are also criticising Bruce’s tactics and team selections and I for one defiantly agree with these critics. His decision to play Stephane Sessegnon to play up front or just behind the striker is ridiculous. Sessegnon is a midfielder and needs to play a bit deeper in order to create the chances for the strikers and wide men. He is a playmaker and you don’t see the likes of Modric, Sneijider or Adam playing up front. He has scored just three goals for Sunderland so obviously Bruce’s tactics aren’t working.
Jack Colback is a good young player but he is too inexperienced to play in the central midfield area which was emphasied by Saturday’s defeat to Chelsea. The game just passed him by and with Lee Catermole beside him, he is under pressure to be the playmaker and simply cannot do it. There is no creativity in the Sunderland midfield and that is one of the reasons why they have scored just two goals so far. If you are going to play Bendtner up front, you have to play someone up there with him. He is not the sort of player who will run his socks off in the lone role. He might be able to hold the ball up but is unable to cover the ground as someone like Danny Welbeck or Darren Bent has done previously. Their tactics have changed a lot since the departure of Bent and Welbeck. They used to play two up front and create lots of chances with Henderson in midfield but since then chances have been at a premium.
Perhaps this new squad needs time to gel but the problem is it seems Steve Bruce has not got time. Bookmakers have slashed their odds on Bruce being sacked and defeat on Sunday at home to Stoke will surely signal the end for Bruce.
What do you think? Sunderland fans get in touch, use the comments box below or tweet me @ryanbaileysport
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