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Then and Now: How Do We Compare To The Previous Pre-Season?

Fans, pundits and columnists alike will often tell you that pre-season isn’t an accurate reflection on the quality of a team, and doesn’t necessarily reflect how well they’ll do once the competitive football starts up again.

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This theory is fairly groundless, though, and is often just used as a comforting excuse to stop fans worrying if their team will plummet from the Premier League. I was guilty of doing just that last season, given the dire record of that summer's friendlies.

Many a Sunderland fan was greatly taken aback by how catastrophically awful we were as we saw in the 2015/16 season – we endured back to back losses against Leicester (a team still regarded as awful at the time) and Norwich (a team that remains awful) in which we shipped seven goals. Every trace of hope was seemingly lost.

But the evidence for a rapid capitulation was there for all to see, we simply chose not to see it. It all started in pre-season.

This summer has told a very different story thus far, however. With four wins from four and an array of fine finishes, we’ve already surpassed the previous pre-season in more ways than one.

Come the end of pre-season, Sunderland will have played out six friendlies in both this year and last. At the time of writing this, and as mentioned, we’ve currently played four. In these four games, we’ve racked up ten goals: (three against Hartlepool, two past Rotherham, another two to beat Stade Nyonnais, and three again to see off Dijon). The former pre-season only saw us find the net eight times. Simply put, we’ve been more effective in front of goal with two games less to prove ourselves.

Not only that, but when we’ve scored, we’ve made sure it counted. A 100% win record will do that fact every bit of justice.

The same couldn’t be said this time last year – with Sunderland managing to only win half of their games. Once again, we’re getting better results in a lesser time frame. That can only be a source of optimism.

Another vital comparison to be made is the fact that the opposition that the lads have come up against is arguably of a higher standard than that which we faced last season, but despite this we’ve been playing much better football. Let’s not forget, we opened our pre-season last year by trailing two goals against Darlington 1883 – a team who play their trade six divisions below us, yet they still gave us a run for our money.

Otherwise, 2015 saw us take on – and lose to – League One Doncaster, as well as an unconvincing win and two losses against teams over in North America. A scuffed shot from Jeremain Lens also saw us struggle past Hannover 96, a team that would go on to finish bottom of the Bundesliga.

This pre-season we’ve seen off opposition (comfortably, I might add) from League Two in Hartlepool, as well as sides from the Championship, Ligue 1 and… the Swiss third tier. Alright, maybe the latter isn’t anything to write home about, but comparatively these results are still superior to the previous haul.

Clearly, we are a far better prepared side than we were a year ago, and it’s just a case of whether or not Sunderland can keep up the good work – since the last two games of Montpellier and Borussia Dortmund will prove to be a lot more than just a victory lap of a hitherto successful summer warm-up.

But, if logic follows, we should start the new Premier League season in a much more convincing fashion. In the same way that we started the last one horrendously.