PREMIER LEAGUE BETTING
Sunderland are part of the furniture
It hasn’t been the most distinguished run, with their average seasonal return being 41 points and 14th place, but Sunderland are the third-longest serving Premier League club beyond the “big six”, only trailing ever-presents Aston Villa and Everton. The Black Cats’ current top-flight stint started in 2007, with this their ninth campaign “on top”, and is therefore their lengthiest stay since the 1950s.
August form is a hopeless barometer
How worried should Sunderland fans be about failing to win any of their four Premier League games in August? About as much as they were in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. That’s right, this was the fifth season in a row in which they managed to get this far without a single league victory and none of the others ended with them waving a teary goodbye to the division. Don’t even panic if it gets grimmer: they never won more than one of their opening eight in any of the other four.
Their history of inexplicable escapes
Not only is it insanity to write Sunderland off in August, it would be bold to do so even as deep in as April. They were in the bottom three with four matches or less to play in 2013/14 and 2014/15 and were able to unchain themselves and rise to the surface just on time. The 2013/14 revival, in which they had 25 points from 32 fixtures and then took seven from successive trips to Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, may never be bettered.
A kind fixture list is actually unkind
Sunderland relegation backers will doubtless argue that it isn’t two points from four outings which forced them to act, rather the fact that they earned so little against non-top-seven quartet Leicester, Norwich, Swansea and Aston Villa. However, the Wearsiders are often at their worst against the worst. They lost twice to QPR last term and leaked seven in home defeats to Aston Villa and Hull, winning three in 16 against sides 12th or lower. What separates them from the riff-raff is their ability to upset the elite, holding five of the top six in 2014/15 and beating four of 2013/14’s top seven.
The transfer window was encouraging
In recent years, transfer dealings have exacerbated Sunderland’s problems instead of easing them as one manager’s squad was torn up to construct another for the latest dugout dweller. This seems to have been a more thoughtful and ambitious attempt though, partly due to a disgruntled Dick Advocaat putting pressure on Ellis Short and Lee Congerton to push through deals.
The most notable was the return of Fabio Borini, who was a hit in 2013/14, firing decisive goals past Newcastle (twice), Chelsea (twice) and Man United. Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila are off the mark already, while Ola Toivonen has been a regular scorer in three leagues. There were defensive additions too, with Spurs loanee DeAndre Yedlin capable of rivalling Danny Rose’s 2012/13 impact.
No fan of Advocaat, no problem
If your reason for dismissing the Mackems as 2016/17 Championship material is that you don’t rate the man in charge, it isn’t a valid criticism. The Stadium of Light Cycle highlights Short’s ruthlessness, sourcing a new coach midway through the last four campaigns, so Advocaat won’t be sheltered if the storm worsens. The Premier League Job Centre is a more happening location than usual this year, with its patrons including the relegation-proof pair Sam Allardyce and Nigel Pearson.
The major fault has been fixed
Did you know that Sunderland’s goals-conceded column read identically to fifth-placed Tottenham at the close of 2014/15? Instead, net-rippling has been the club’s major shortcoming, as evidenced by a tally of 31 in 38 games last season which was 11 fewer than rock bottom QPR. Advocaat’s arrivals appear to have loosened the jar though, with six goals in four matches representing the best ever attacking start of their Premier League existence.
It is lunacy to be such strong favourites at this stage
Sunderland are 1.55 to go down, which is an absurdly short price four weeks in. They were priced at 3.95 earlier this summer and two defeats in five encounters across all competitions certainly shouldn’t be enough to enforce such a turnaround. They are far from adrift, being tied on points with Stoke and Newcastle – 8 and 4.40 for the drop respectively – and a win shy of the top half.
The newbie nosedive is soon to take place
Picking the previous point back up, Watford were the sole team odds-on for relegation in pre-season and, while this writer expects them to survive, it is difficult to justify their drift to 2.26 when they have taken a point more than the Black Cats and are goalless in four games across all competitions. Newcomers typically begin brightly amidst the post-promotion buzz and then fade, and this year’s trio don’t have far to fall having all collected four points or less from the first available 12.