July 21, 2024

Sunderland were condemned to a dismal 0-0 stalemate by QPR on Saturday afternoon.
Sunderland broke a six-game losing streak with a 0-0 draw against QPR on Saturday afternoon, but it was far from their best display at the Stadium of Light.

Here are Phil’s top takeaways from the game…

SUNDERLAND DESTINED FOR MID-TABLE FINISH

With eight games remaining, Sunderland is thirteen points behind the top six and nine points ahead of the bottom three. This campaign will almost certainly finish in the middle of the standings.

Sunderland’s excellent performance broke their losing streak and most certainly put an end to any rising fear that they will be pushed into an improbable relegation battle. Given the amount of teams below them and their respective performances, they most likely already have enough points on the board, and one win will almost certainly suffice. With Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts certain to play four or five games before the season finishes, they will get it.

So, despite the awful disappointment, there was some relief here. However, it means Sunderland will face something they haven’t seen since the 2010/11 season: a run-in with almost nothing to play for. Given their position at the start of December, it’s an astounding collapse that can be attributed to two critical decisions: dismissing Tony Mowbray without securing a high-calibre successor and failing to address last summer’s transfer failings in the January transfer window.

This point presumably indicates that Sunderland will be able to get through the campaign without making any additional changes, but it is now a campaign that will end as a big squandered opportunity.

 

Sunderland have just agreed deal to sign 20-year-old Chelsea player on loan

RESULT BRINGS SOME RELIEF – BUT NOT THE PERFORMANCE

The result was about the only positive for Sunderland; this performance was perhaps a new low in a season that many are now eagerly anticipating its conclusion.
There is no doubt that injuries and suspensions are having a significant impact on Sunderland, not only in the final third but throughout the pitch. It was most obvious in a reshuffled defence on Saturday, with Sunderland looking too cumbersome and fragmented while attempting to play out of the back.

There may have been some mitigating variables, but it was simply a disappointing experience to watch a squad that had captivated fans for the preceding 18 months produce so little – without even registering a shot on goal in 95 minutes of football. QPR have improved significantly under Marti Cifuentes, and Mike Dodds correctly recognized their improved defensive structure since his mid-season arrival, but this Sunderland side is a pale copy of the one that soared to sixth place last season and looked so competitive in the first half of this season. Even when they got into favorable positions, they lacked the quality and conviction to capitalise.

When the attendance was disclosed in the final ten minutes of the game, there were loud bursts of laughing, indicating that a fair proportion of regulars had decided to spend their Saturday afternoon doing something else. Many more would leave before the final whistle, with the game balanced so that only the visitors appeared to have a chance of scoring. While Sunderland continued to work, QPR’s substitutes, particularly Sinclair Armstrong, provided a great injection of effort and energy, almost propelling them over the finish line.

The apathy that has overtaken this ground (rightfully and quite naturally) for large sections of the season should raise red flags in the Sunderland management. Next season, supporters will expect a group strong enough to contend for a spot in the top six across 46 games, which will need a change in the transfer plan. Many of these young players have significant potential, but the difference between veteran players and those just getting started at the level is currently too large to handle the rigours of a Championship campaign. The effort and application are there, but the quality and consistency are lacking.

It just cannot be sustainable for a club of this stature to generate such high-level results in their third season back in the Championship. There is a lot at stake this summer, and the club hierarchy must get it right.

SHORT-TERM ASSISTANCE IS ON THE WAY – BUT SUMMER BUSINESS WILL BE VITAL

It was another terrible afternoon for Dodds, who later said that he was more dissatisfied with this performance than with the other four defeats he had presided over. He has demonstrated a commendable effort to provide opportunities for the club’s young strikers, but his double substitution 10 minutes into the second half indicated that his attacking combinations had once again failed.

Bradley Dack returns to the bench here, and Corry Evans and Aji Alese are expected to join him at Cardiff, giving the temporary head coach hope. Clarke and Patrick Roberts are unlikely to make the game, but they should not be far behind. That should make the next few games of the season more appealing, but it also highlights the significance of the summer transfer window. If Clarke does leave, as appears inevitable, Sunderland will simply need to replace him with a player (or players) capable of making an impact at this level from the start. They appear unlikely to mount a play-off campaign unless they do.

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