After the great win at Crystal Palace was followed by a crushing home defeat to Southampton, Sunderland fans typically divided into two familiar camps: loyal belief in another great escape and, inevitably, grim resignation. Alex McMahon tries to see positives despite an underwhelming transfer window and the failure to build on the Palace result …
Maybe the transfer window hasn’t left Sunderland doomed
Sunderland, the usual relegation avoidance specialists, seem to have found themselves in an almighty tangle with a poor transfer window. Even the 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, giving some cause for optimism, was quickly followed by as emphatic a losing scoreline at home to Southampton.
At the end of January, the sale of Patrick van Aanholt in the dying stages of the transfer window was a bitter pill to swallow [only for some supporters – Ed], especially seeing as the attacking left-back was allowed to join close rivals.
But because David Moyes had no pocket money to spend on players, it is understandable that he had to attempt a bit of wheeling and dealing.
With an initial fee of £9 million received for PvA, Moyes had funds to strengthen in the attack and bring in a goalscorer to support Jermain Defoe. The prolific forward has been involved with 70 per cent of Sunderland’s goals this season with 14 goals and two assists (see video below).
He has been a great asset not just for Sunderland, but for betters as well. Those who have taken advantage of the “First Goalscorer offer” in the list of Bet365 betting offers will have certainly reaped the rewards of Defoe’s finishing this season. But the former England striker can’t do it on his own.
In an effort to ease some of the pressure on Defoe, Moyes attempted to bring in Leonard Ulloa from Leicester City, but the final bid of £7.5 million plus add-ons was rejected by the defending champions.
After hardly getting any game time for the Foxes this season, the Argentinian forward was devastated that the deal didn’t go through, as were Sunderland. Leicester are now firmly in the relegation battle whether they like it or not, though, and they will have been reluctant to sell to us as one of their main rivals against the drop.
This was yet another setback in a highly disappointing season, and it is fair to say that a lot of the blame falls on Moyes.
While other teams in the bottom three are attempting to resolve their predicaments by recruiting new managers, Sunderland have stuck with Moyes because he was the man they wanted for so long.
The draws at home to Liverpool and Spurs and the win at Palace suggested that decision might be vindicated, though Moyes now faces the daunting task of getting his players to put the 4-0 defeat to Southampton behind them. If he can, he could yet be seen as a miracle worker.
Hull City and Crystal Palace both seemed to make promising moves in January. Hull have brought in a few quality players including Evandro Goebel and Kamil Grosicki. One bright spot for Moyes is the extent to which Sam Allardyce’s defensive reinforcements at Palace failed so miserably in the crucial game against Sunderland.
Swansea City previously seemed in dire straits, but since hiring Paul Clement as manager they have managed to claw their way out of the bottom three.
It could be argued that the Welsh side have more than enough quality to stave off relegation, and if it wasn’t for such a poor managerial choice in Bob Bradley they wouldn’t have found themselves in such a mess in the first place.
So it’s still going to take that miracle for Sunderland stay up. If only we could overlook the Saints debacle, we could say recent performances have shown a side kicking into gear. Even against Southampton, they played well for 25 minutes before going behind.
Fans will have been unimpressed by the quiet transfer window, and by the lingering weaknesses in the squad. Moyes and his players know what is required to overcome such disappointments and, starting with the difficult game at Everton a week on Saturday, finally start climbing the table.