Sunderland lost for the third time from the opening four games as Everton and Romelu Lukaku ran riot on Wearside on Monday night - defeat is nothing new for Sunderland fans to endure and sadly nor is the manner of our capitulation, however, the surprising nature of the collapse has raised alarm bells amongst sections of the Sunderland faithful.
This season was meant to be the year that Sunderland finally made a bit of progress - we had a manager who the fans and players loved in Sam Allardyce, and what appeared to be a treasure chest of cash from the new TV deals. Big Sam had kept us up in May and all seemed rosy. Fast-forward four long months and Big Sam has left and we have replaced him with another proven manager in David Moyes, who so far has been less than impressive.
All seemed well when the Scot arrived on Wearside - we had a decent manager at the club and a transfer window ahead of us to really give it a go, but a lack of quality and a lack of M’Vila left many Sunderland fans underwhelmed by our transfer activity, and four games into the season we appear under-prepared.
Which bring us back to the Everton game; the manner of the loss is nothing to new to Sunderland fans, we have seen it under Martin O’Neill, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat, Paolo Di Canio and even Sam Allardyce. Nevertheless, Sunderland fans had hoped that those days were behind them. Since around February we began to look like a side that would be tough to beat and could finally progress, we stayed up and had a summer to improve.
Monday, bizarrely, had the feeling of a game that was seeing a manager at the end of his reign. We saw it with Steve Bruce against Wigan, Di Canio against West Brom and Poyet against Villa. All of them were poor games and all poor performances from a team that didn’t really have the energy levels and quality that you would expect from a Premier League side.
We may be only five games into David Moyes’ tenure on Wearside but you have to wonder why he appears to be following the pattern of O’Neill and Poyet rather than Big Sam. Against Everton we had genuine quality on the pitch in Defoe, Kone, Kirchhoff and Januzaj; that is a very strong spine to a team. However, much like the Martin O’Neill days, David Moyes appears to have a squad full of individuals, with the Scot struggling to find a system to get the best out of the side and to also get them playing like a team.
So far all we’ve heard from Moyes is that this will be a ‘slow build’, and he is 100% correct in that, although, when the team and managerial staff appear to be meandering down a dangerous road like many other before them, then fans begin to worry. Yes, we have injuries, yes, we have a new squad and yes, we have had a tough run of fixtures. However, the lack of preparation is concerning, Moyes arrived midway through pre-season but still had plenty of time to put his stamp on the squad and on the transfer window. Cautious transfers and cautious tactics simply will not cut it on Wearside - just ask Martin O’Neill.
You could argue, and would probably be correct in saying that it is far too early to judge David Moyes just yet. Nevertheless, the warning signs are there, the graveyard of past managers is there too. I still believe that David Moyes is the right man to take us forward, but if the Scot wants to be given the time he needs to slowly change Sunderland’s fortunes, then he needs to take a leaf out of Big Sam’s book instead of Gus Poyet’s and Martin O’Neill’s, by putting his stamp on the squad and find out how to get the best out of them.