Off to Bournemouth we go - with a manager who is floundering, who is feeling let down by broken promises and is bearing the brunt of the supporters frustrations. Sunderland really are a club that goes round in circles.
When Dick Advocaat took Sunderland to The Vitality Stadium last September, he too was still searching for a first win of the season. Admittedly, he was in a slightly more sympathetic situation than David Moyes due to the season being two months younger, but the similarities are still all too familiar. Advocaat, a much more experienced manager with little left to prove in the game, was already on the verge of quitting as he could see the writing was on the wall for him and his side. If someone was going to change Sunderland's fortunes, it sadly wasn't going to be the weeping Dutchman.
Change "weeping Dutchman" to "frowning Scotsman" and that sentence is depressingly applicable to the current man in the Sunderland dugout (or directors box, for this match due to an FA disciplinary charge). Unlike Advocaat though, David Moyes is desperate to rebuild a crumbling reputation and is more determined to fight on. I use the term fight loosely though - the former Manchester United & Real Sociedad manager is wearing the same glum expression he did for the majority of his time at both of those clubs. The EFL Cup exit against Southampton may have been disappointing but at least we saw the fighting spirit of when Moyes was in his Everton days. If he can start translating that onto the pitch, which will then bleed into the stands, that could mean so much.
We know this team is low on ability, and trying to play neat and tidy football won't get us anywhere at present. There's a lack of battle in this team, and I don't mean that in the usual cliched way. For a team who often sees the minority of possession, Sunderland never make as many tackles as the opposition. That's disgraceful, especially last week, against a team like Arsenal, where Sunderland should be putting as much pressure as possible on the ball. That has to be addressed this weekend and, with limited options in the middle of midfield at present, it's time for the likes of Didier Ndong, Jack Rodwell and Paddy McNair to step up. They need to make sure that anything that they lack in technical ability is overcompensated for massively by their determination. Against a side as well organised and comfortable on the ball as Bournemouth, it's crucial.
That will only get you so far, of course. There needs to be organisation restored to the defence and we can't rely on Jordan Pickford to keep us in the game. If you haven't seen Jamie Carragher tearing into Lamine Kone for his performance against Arsenal, then you must have been living under a rock. I doubt that motivates a man already earning vast sums of money and a player who probably still want's to leave the club but maybe a national humiliation has brought him to the realisation that, if he does want a move, then he'll have to earn it. Just like the midfield, our options aren't great in defence but we saw the Kone of last season against West Ham a couple of weeks ago. Let’s see that player reemerge.
The one place we have a tiny ray of light is up front. Jermain Defoe. The boy, Defoe. Yes, he'll sniff out a chance at some point, perhaps, but he needs a better supply. The fact we only had one shot on target last weekend, a penalty at that, was sickening and it stemmed from a lack of creativity. Playing out from the back won't get this team anywhere and it will make it easier for defences to isolate Defoe. Look at how we won the spot kick against Arsenal - a ball over the top from Ndong for Duncan Watmore to run onto, which he robs off the defender. Playing to players strengths. If we can go more direct and bring the likes of Wahbi Khazri and Duncan Watmore closer to Defoe we have a much greater chance of worrying defences.
If Moyes lets Bournemouth dictate the nature of this game, we lose. Eddie Howe's men can't be allowed the time to play their game, it has to be a scrap. The best period of play Sunderland have had in weeks is early in the second half at The London Stadium. Where we pushed high up, got the ball to our attacking players quickly and made our tackles, blocks and interceptions. It's probably the only time this season we've came close to stamping our authority on a match.
If the supporters see that, if they can for once see the plan on the pitch and something resembling an identity, then Moyes can start to get any wavering supporters back on side.
Many of those fans have probably already began the ridiculously long journey to the south coast, in pure spite on the teams woes. Similar strength in the face of adversity is required from the players.
Bournemouth has to be the start of David Moyes turning things around at Sunderland. These next two games will be the ones that definite his tenure. Will he, like Dick Advocaat, be another early season failure? Or will he do what Advocaat and Sunderland's most recent gaffers couldn't do, and turn it all around? If it's going to be the latter, then it has to start now.