Newcastle and Sunderland two surprise relegation candidates
With just two wins from 16 Premier League games between them, there aren’t many teams around playing worse than the top flight’s north-eastern representatives.
Sunderland have struggled to get going all season, whereas Newcastle are in free fall of late and, as result, the Tyne-Wear nemeses find themselves languishing dangerously close to the trap door. The latter remain at long-odds of 11/1 for the drop, while the Black Cats can be backed as 9/2 shots for a previously unconceivable relegation to the Championship.
Both teams have top quality players at their disposal, particularly at the top end of the pitch, and showed for long periods last time around just how good they can be, yet a bizarre inability to score goals has proved the common denominator behind their struggles this term.
Injuries have proved a huge headache for Alan Pardew with key creators having to watch their team struggle from the sidelines. Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa are exceptionally talented players with the ball at their feet and their absences would severely weaken most teams, but this isn’t the sole reason behind their situation.
Papiss Cisse netted in the Toon’s 2-1 defeat at Stoke last time out, but this was only his second league goal of a disappointing campaign to date. His goalscoring exploits following a January switch from Hoffenheim led many to believe he’d be the man to spearhead another Newcastle push for a top-four finish in 2012/13.
This couldn’t be further from the case, however.
Whether opposition defences are savvier to his game, the supply line isn’t what it was or he’s just been plain unlucky, the fact remains that two goals from 12 league appearances isn’t good enough and puts too much pressure on Demba Ba to score every week. If he doesn’t kick on from the strike at the Britannia, the Magpies’ plight could definitely worsen.
Sunderland have their own reliable source of goals in Steven Fletcher who announced himself on Wearside with five goals in as many games for Martin O’Neill’s side, but he was the only player to notch in the league up until Ba put through his own net in the north-east derby.
They’re too reliant on Fletcher’s goals and, as steady a player as he is, a 20-goal campaign would be an exceptional achievement. Stephane Sessegnon looks to have found his shooting boots in recent weeks with two in his last three and the Mackems will be praying he can keep this run going.
The likes of Adam Johnson, Seb Larsson and James McClean are required to pitch in a little more than they have been if the Black Cats wish to escape the mess they currently find themselves in too.
It’s without doubt that there are three weaker teams in the division than Newcastle and Sunderland, which makes it difficult to envisage their current issues ending in tears come May, but alarm bells must be ringing at an ear-bursting volume in both camps right now.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date