It’s not the first time the headline writers have penned the words ‘Sunderland complete the great escape’ as once again, Sunderland have narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League. Think back to the same stage of last season and Sunderland were scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the Premier League table. The same thing has happened again this season and with just one game remaining, Sunderland have secured their status as a Premier League team.
Things were looking bleak in September and October, as Sunderland managed just 1 win in 7 games. Things improved for a short time but in December it got even worse, as Sunderland suffered 5 league defeats in a row. Having appointed current manager, Sam Allardyce in October, things didn’t seem as though they were going to improve.
Some key acquisitions in the January transfer window, freshened up the squad and each of the three arrivals, Lamine Koné and Jan Kirchhoff and attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri, all played a part in the successful race to stay in the Premier League.
Sunderland defeated Manchester United at home 2-1 and took a point off Liverpool at Anfield, both results providing some confidence to the team. Come March and Sunderland began a string of results, which despite not producing many wins, gave the team a sense of invincibility. From the 1st of March to the final home game against Everton, Sunderland played 10 Premier League games, winning 3, drawing 6 and losing just 1. Starting off that sequence of results, were 4 drawn games and although this only resulted in 4 points, it was the fact that Sunderland were not being beaten, which gave the team belief they could stage another successful battle against relegation.
Sunderland had a desire and spirit among the squad to stay in the Premier League. Despite having some good players, the team was no match on paper for Chelsea or Everton, two of their final three opponents of the season. Yet Sunderland delivered the goods, winning both games and scoring 6 goals in the process. Sunderland didn’t just stay up; they did it with a bit of style.
The question is, what does next season hold at the Stadium of Light? Surely Sunderland cannot continue to drag themselves out of the relegation zone, season after season. Eventually it will take its toll. With Sam Allardyce at the helm and the new television deal in place, some exciting signings could be forthcoming, especially if his record in the January transfer window is anything to go by.
As it stands, Sunderland are 1000/1 with Ladbrokes to ‘do a Leicester’ and win the Premier League title next season. Very unlikely, as is a top four finish, which is available at 40/1 with SkyBet. Perhaps the most likely and better bet, would be for Sunderland to finish in the top ten and that’s on offer at 8/1 with Bet365. If Sunderland can start next season in the same, determined mentality they finished this, expect them to reach safety much earlier than they have done in recent campaigns.