We need stability.
We can't keep sacking managers.
We can't afford to keep sacking managers.
Points frequently raised when the question of whether Sunderland should replace David Moyes is asked. They're valid points. Sunderland do need stability, and the managerial merry-go-round has undoubtedly caused the club a number of problems over the last few years - not least in terms of the melting-pot squad of 'talent' assembled on Wearside.
But does that mean that we should blindly support a failing manager purely for the sake of achieving this fabled stability, particularly when we, more than anyone, have reaped the benefits of making a managerial change?
First and foremost, I've tried to give Moyes the benefit of the doubt as the season has progressed. The manager has had his hands tied in certain respects. Resources have been limited (regardless, his acquisitions have largely been poor) and it's clear that certain players just aren't good enough to play regularly in the Premier League. I doubt that he instructs the players to pass straight to the opposition or fail to mark the opposition striker, for example, but the responsibility of organising the team falls on his shoulders.
And with the season reaching a critical stage - just 12 games remain - can we truly define what this Sunderland team is? The side has no discernible style of play, nor do they excel in any areas. In truth, they're not even good in any areas. Sunderland are weak, unorganised, and more often than not, outfought. The players appear low on confidence - whether that is in themselves or their manager remains unclear. Either way, it's far from an ideal position for a struggling squad to be in.
In comparison, Sean Dyche and Burnley represent the polar opposite of what we see with Sunderland. Their football is far from pretty, but it's highly functional; born from a strong spine and a relatively solid backline that helps to accentuate their collective strengths and hide the weaknesses. They're highly organised, with each player knowing their specific role within the team. Pound for pound, their players are not significantly better than Sunderland's, but Dyche has created a system and atmosphere in which his players are prepared to go the extra mile for both him and the team.
At a higher level, Tony Pulis has continued to show the worth of defensive solidity and organisation - albeit at the expense of attacking flair - and the ability to make the sum of West Brom greater than its parts. Moyes has had ample time to work on the basics, yet the team continue - particularly in defensive situations - to look like total strangers.
Admittedly, the absence of Victor Anichebe has undoubtedly been a large factor in the team's failings. Four of Sunderland's five wins this season have come with the Nigerian playing, and Moyes' entire gameplan appeared to revolve around Anichebe. But the injury-prone player picked up an injury, unsurprisingly, and the manager has failed to find a successful system in his absence. Moyes, in his defence, has also had to contend with a number of injuries to important players, although the team was hardly inspiring when they were available.
Nonetheless, in that regard, the fact that Sunderland are within touching distance of their relegation rivals seems somewhat remarkable, and may give Moyes seem leeway with Ellis Short. Just three points separate 20th from 17th - although Middlesbrough possess a significantly better goal difference - while Swansea, in 16th, sit five points ahead.
Ellis Short has wanted David Moyes at Sunderland for a long time. Moyes is his man, and if he succeeds, then Ellis Short has succeeded. It would reflect badly on Short should his long-term number one target prove to be a flop. It would suggest that Short is a poor judge of talent and character.
That, coupled with the fact that Sunderland are within touching distance of their rivals, may see the Sunderland chairman stand by his man.
But the owner has also shown in the past that he knows when the time is right to make a change. Short, and Sunderland - more than anyone else - know the benefits of making a managerial change in an attempt to preserve Premier League status. Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce have all successfully completed that task. Staying in the top division is vital, particularly if Short has ambitions to sell the club.
Sunderland aren't staying in the Premier League at the current rate. Nor were Hull, or Swansea. In fact, many pundits said that they were as good as gone. So they changed managers. Both opted for younger coaches with clear ideas on how they want to play and, importantly, enthusiasm for the job. On the other hand, we still have no idea what Moyes' style of play is after 26 games - hit and hope to Jermain Defoe, perhaps?
They took risks. Marco Silva had only managed in Portugal and Greece. Paul Clement had been sacked from his sole managerial role at Derby (albeit in somewhat controversial circumstances with the team in 5th). But they have both made an impact. Silva has taken 8 points from 18, with his players praising him for the "optimism" and "confidence" that he has brought to the club. Clement has gone one better, taking 9 points from 18 and winning the Manager of the Month award.
Leicester, meanwhile, sacked Claudio Ranieri on Thursday. Their players responded with a superb 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Monday evening. Coincidence?
On the other hand, Sam Allardyce's appointment at Crystal Palace has yet to yield the desired results, with just 6 points taken from a possible 24 thus far. It's a warning that not every move works out (although there are still games remaining, of course - and that goes for Sunderland too), but surely the risk is one worth taking? Silva and Clement may end up taking their respective sides down, but at least they attempted to make a change for the good of the club.
Moyes believes that he needs to win five games from Sunderland's remaining 12 to survive. To put that into context, Sunderland have won just five league games all season, although they were against Bournemouth, Hull, Watford, Leicester and Crystal Palace, i.e. teams around them. And Sunderland play four of them, plus Burnley, Swansea and Middlesbrough in those last 12 games. There's an opportunity to be taken advantage of, but is Moyes the man to do that? It's hard to say yes based on what we've seen so far this season. He's struggled to motivate and organise, while 80% of his wins so far have came with a now-unavailable Victor Anichebe in the side.
Sunderland need to look to the future, and there's scant evidence to suggest that Moyes is the man to lead us there, particularly if the club is relegated come May. Moyes is struggling to show that he has the appetite for this job in the Premier League after failing with Manchester United and Real Sociedad; it's hard to imagine that he'd have the hunger and desire to lead Sunderland in the Championship, particularly when he can abandon the 'rotten' ship with the support of a media that largely absolves him of any blame.
Instead, I believe that the club needs to target a younger coach with fresh ideas and desire; a coach that sees Sunderland as a big opportunity to make a real impression in their career. Gary Rowett has almost become a cliche among Sunderland fans - a name for name's sake - but the fact is that he would bring an enthusiasm for a long term building project at a club with limited resources having succeeded with, and stabilised, both Burton Albion and Birmingham City. It's telling that Birmingham have won just two games since his departure, dropping from 7th to 14th. He's far from a 'sexy' name, but nor are Dyche or Pulis, and they've done alright for themselves.
Garry Monk has bounced back from his Swansea disappointment by turning Leeds' fortunes around - and he's even managed to please their trigger-happy owner Massimo Cellino. Fulham have also seen an upturn in fortunes under former Watford boss Slavisa Jokanovic, with fans declaring that the Serb is the best thing to happen to the club in a long time. Although Jokanovic recently signed a contract extension at Craven Cottage, the wider point is that there are younger, hungrier managers who would likely relish the opportunity to work in the Premier League at a club like Sunderland.
Alternatively, Sunderland could look to make a left-field appointment, as Hull did with Silva. Southampton, although not in the same situation as Sunderland, took a risk in appointing Mauricio Pochettino following his exit from Espanyol - a move that proved to be a masterstroke. Ronald Koeman was then plucked from the Eredivisie following Pochettino's departure and the Dutchman took the Saints to the next level. Phillip Cocu has enjoyed success in the Netherlands, and with the title looking out of reach for PSV, might he be tempted to follow in Koeman's footsteps and move to the Premier League? It's a long shot, admittedly, but shy bairns get nowt.
Either way, I strongly feel that it's time for a change at Sunderland. Relieving Moyes of his duties will cost money, and while the turnover of managers has undoubtedly harmed the club's finances, the cost of relegation is far more significant. And if the worst does happen, is Moyes really the man we want to lead us in the Championship with limited resources?
Neil Young once sang that "it's better to burn out than to fade away." And Sunderland are in danger of fading away. Sunderland's run of new manager 'miracles' may come to an end this season, but it's worth rolling the dice in an attempt to create any kind of momentum.
The question, however, is how long, if at all, will Ellis Short wait to follow the lead of our rivals and bin his man?