The Premier League’s sixth round of games is yet to be concluded, but already Sunderland’s position looks rather desperate, three points from safety even before the two sides either side of the fold – Burnley and West Ham – take to the field.
The Black Cats find themselves in that hole after collecting a single point from their first six top-flight outings under David Moyes, a coach whose eight straight top-eight finishes between 2006/07 and 2013/14 with Everton and Man Utd hinted at him being an upgrade on predecessor Sam Allardyce.
Indeed, usually low-key chairman Ellis Short said as much: “He was my number one managerial target for the last five appointments, but his desire to honour existing contracts meant we were not able to bring him to Sunderland previously.”
Moyes had three things in his favour in the difficult early weeks: awareness that he was hired quite late in pre-season and therefore needed time to master the squad, appreciation that he faced three of the top four in his opening five fixtures and some encouraging progress in the EFL Cup.
However, that patience was hammered in their most recent encounter against Crystal Palace as they strolled into a 2-0 advantage on the hour mark against middle-of-the-road opponents yet somehow didn’t just allow them back into the match but surrendered all three points in the 94th minute.
The consequence is that Sunderland are now odds-on to be relegated as so many times before, though it is their experience of salvaging such situations that should keep them calm.
Unbelievably, this is now the fourth campaign in a row in which they have failed to win any of their first six league contests, while they haven’t won more than one of the initial eight in any of the past six, yet extraordinarily they worked their way up to 38 points or more on every occasion.
Two years ago, it was on week seven that their fortunes started to change, and it is 7/5 that they repeat that trick with victory at home to West Brom next Saturday.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.