In trying to unravel who or what is most to blame for Sunderland’s demise to the bottom of the Premier League standings and probable relegation to the Championship, there is no shortage of candidates.
The logical starting point is the strikers, who have mustered just seven goals between them in 30 games this season. Meanwhile, some will criticise a lack of midfield creativity for failing to deliver a suitable number of chances.
A selection of managers will also receive their fair share of criticism. Paolo Di Canio’s inability to find a success story among his raft of 14 summer signings has proved a problem.
Others will look even further back to blame Steve Bruce, who received £18m for Darren Bent from Aston Villa, but never got close to replacing his goals despite a hefty outlay in the following summer.
Connor Wickham has been an especially big flop at £12m, even if he was only 18 when he was signed.
It is fairly clear that Sunderland fell from being a mid-table side with aspirations of breaking into Europe to one flirting with relegation when Bent departed.
But rather hold Bent responsible, maybe it is former England manager Fabio Capello that should take a greater portion of the blame.
Despite being the highest-scoring Englishman is his only full season at Sunderland, Bent only played in three England games in this period.
After moving to Aston Villa, Bent was a far more regular fixture in the England set up, playing six times in the next 12 months.
To a lesser extent, Adam Johnson is suffering in the same way now with Roy Hodgson, as the winger has failed to even make an England squad despite a string of influential performances in the mid-section of the season.
Bent’s lack of international involvement must have influenced his decision to submit a transfer request from Sunderland and should he have played more for England, he would likely have been keener to stay.
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