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Sunderland have youngest squad in relegation battle; Trips to Arsenal & Chelsea for final 2 games?

Analysis published elsewhere on the internet today reveals Sunderland have had the fourth youngest squad in the Premier League this season and the lowest average age of those clubs battling against relegation; In other news, with Fenerbahçe booted out of the Europa League Dick Advocaat is on the brink of the sack; and it's beginning to look a lot like a trip to Arsenal and Chelsea in the final week of the season - could it be any more daunting? But, history repeating itself may be a good omen.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Youngest squad in the relegation battle

Analysis published today by stats site Experimental 3-6-1 reveals that Sunderland have had the fourth youngest squad in the Premier League this season. And, of the clubs currently battling relegation, David Moyes has the lowest average age of Premier League starting XI's.

Sunderland v Southampton - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Despite assembling a squad filled with its fair share of old heads - think Jermain Defoe, John O'Shea and Steven Pienaar - Sunderland's average age has been 27-years-old during the twenty-five games played this season.

Compare that with an age of 27.4 at Middlesbrough, 27.9 at both Swansea and Hull, 28.4 at Leicester and 28.5 at Crystal Palace and perhaps the numbers appear barely significant. However, the analysis gives a further indication of the squad make-up at Sunderland compared with our rivals.

Because teams put out by David Moyes this season have had a significant concentration of players aged 22 and younger - certainly far more than any other side in the relegation mix and pretty much the entire Premier League. Check out the graphic below and note the fat rump at the lower portion of the Sunderland age profile and compare it with our relegation rivals in particular:

Think regulars this season - Jordan Pickford, Jason Denayer, Didier Ndong and Adnan Januzaj then add in the likes of Duncan Watmore, Javier Manquillo and Donald Love and the make-up of this Sunderland squad is indeed pretty fresh-faced. All of the above are aged 22 or under.

Moyes has been forced to utilise younger players for large parts of the season due to the continuing injury crisis at Sunderland, but even if he had benefited from more of his senior pro's being fit, the nucleus of the team would still have been relatively young.

Sunderland v Watford - Premier League
Jason Denayer and Didier Ndong in action against Watford
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

It may bode well for the future, but perhaps young players tend to be inconsistent - and Sunderland are sure inconsistent, and when we talk about David Moyes' squad possessing 'relegation battle experience', none of those names in the above paragraph have been regulars in any of our previous 'great escapes'.

European exit & calls for Dick's head

Dick Advocaat's Fenerbahçe exited the Europa League last night, losing 2-1 on aggregate to Russian side Krasnodar.

Fenerbahce SK v Manchester United FC - UEFA Europa League Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Sunderland's Jeremain Lens, on loan at Fenerbahçe, provided the cross for the Turkish side's goal in the game which ended 1-1 on the night. The Dutchman's free-kick cased havoc in the Russian penalty area before being bundled in.

But it wasn't enough and Dick Advocaat's side were eliminated at the hands of Krasnodar who were only formed eight years ago. Fenerbahçe left the field to supporters calling for a change in management and some are anticipating that the former Sunderland manager will depart his post in the aftermath of this defeat.

It's starting to look a lot like trips to Arsenal & Chelsea in the last week

Sunderland will face a daunting trip to Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season. With Premier League survival likely to go down to the wire again, the prospect of needing to get a result against Chelsea is hardly uplifting.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
John O'Shea leads the applauds towards Sunderland supporters at Stamford bridge in May 2015
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

But with fixture schedules in the process of being rewritten due to various team's involvement in Europe and the FA Cup, there's a very real prospect that Sunderland's penultimate game will now be a visit to the Emirates.

Arsenal are due to host David Moyes' men on the 22nd April, but that's FA Cup semi-final weekend and barring an upset, Arsene Wenger's side are huge favourites to progress in the cup as they face Lincoln in the next round. And that means the game against Sunderland will almost certainly be rearranged.

But browsing the schedule, it's nearly impossible to find a free mid-week slot to shove the Arsenal trip in to. The semi-finals of the Champions League are due to take place on 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th of May so those dates are out of the question because UEFA do not permit domestic games on the same nights as their showcase fixtures.

And with Arsenal likely to have more games to rearrange before ours, that pretty much only leaves the final week of the season.

A trip to the Emirates and then Stamford Bridge in order to stay up? No problem. It would be a mirror image of the final week of season 2014-15 when Dick Advocaat engineered the point that Sunderland required at Arsenal to clinch Premier League survival before losing the final game of the season at Chelsea.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League
Dick Advocaat, Lee Cattermole & Paul Bracewell celebrate survival at the Emirates in May 2015
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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