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English Premier League

Where has it gone wrong for Sunderland?



They’ve reached the Capital One Cup final and got an impressive point away at Manchester City recently but it matters little at this point as Sunderland lie rock bottom of the Premier League as we head into the final weeks of this incredible season. A measly 26 points have been earned from 33 games and they are currently six points behind Norwich who lie in 17th albeit with a game in hand. The key question though is not whether Sunderland will survive but where has it gone wrong for Sunderland this season?

Firstly and most obvious issue for Sunderland is the massive squad turnover this season. A grand total of 19 players have been signed by two managers in just two transfer windows:

  • Duncan Watmore – Altrincham (free)
  • David Moberg Karlsson – IFK Gothenburg (£1.5 million)
  • Modibo Diakite – Lazio (free)
  • Valentin Roberge – Maritimo (free)
  • Cabral – Basel (free)
  • Vito Mannone – Arsenal (£2 million)
  • Jozy Altidore – AZ Alkmaar (£6 million)
  • El-Hadji Ba – Le Havre (£300,000)
  • Emmanuele Giaccherini – Juventus (£6.5 million)
  • Ondrej Celustka – Trabzonspor (loan)
  • Charalampos Mavrias – Panathinaikos (£3 million)
  • Ki Sung-Yeung – Swansea (loan)
  • Fabio Borini – Liverpool (loan)
  • Andrea Dossena – Napoli (loan)
  • Marcos Alonso – Sunderland (loan)
  • Santiago Vergini – Estudiantes (loan)
  • Oscar Ustari – Almeria (free)
  • Ignacio Scocco – Internacional (undisclosed)
  • Liam Bridcutt – Brighton (undisclosed)

That is just more than a full Premier League matchday squad! It’s an incredible ask for all of these players to come in, gel, understand the way Sunderland play and be up to Premier League quality and pace almost immediately. And, honestly, it’s difficult to pick out more than five or six of these signings that have played consistently well over the course of the season. Fabio Borini has been Sunderland’s main goal threat but he’s heading back to Liverpool in the summer and Ki, possibly their best player this season, is heading back to Swansea when his loan spell is over. The two big money signings Giaccherini and Altidore have contributed little with Altidore especially being criticised for being seemingly unable to score at all. Some of the summer signings are not even at the club anymore seemingly struggling to adapt. Diakite is back in Italy having made little to no impact while Cabral is on loan at Genoa after playing just once. It is shockingly horrible spending and dealings from Sunderland and makes you wonder whether or not their scouting team actually did any work or just plucked these players out of thin air.

Another big problem for Sunderland has been departures. Key players were let go over the summer who have not been properly replaced. Simon Mignolet was sold on to Liverpool for £9 million in the summer and his replacement, Vito Mannone, was sold by Arsenal for being completely unreliable and error-prone. While he has produced some good performances, errors like his recent one against Manchester City will continue to have fans on edge. Perhaps the most damaging departure of all has been Stephane Sessengon’s departure to West Brom on deadline day. When he was sold, Sunderland lost their creative spark, their difference maker. While Sessengon was frustratingly inconsistent at times, he was a special player who could produce enough magic over the course of a season to keep a team like Sunderland comfortably mid-table rather than propping up the table. Without replacing him at all, Sunderland have struggled to create enough chances for their struggling forwards and as a result Sunderland have one of the worst attacks in the league (only Norwich, Cardiff and Crystal Palace have scored fewer). Without quality replacements for quality departures then Sunderland left themselves with a tough time ahead.

Perhaps Sunderland’s biggest problem has been that players have just not performed this season. There was discontent amongst the players due to former boss Paolo Di Canio’s methods and that negative attitude has permeated throughout the club for the rest of the season. New boss Gus Poyet is trying hard to get the players to play and get points but performances at times have been shockingly poor. The defence has chopped and changed so much that they are struggling to get any coherence and, subsequently, are conceding too many goals to keep competitive (only Fulham and Cardiff have conceded more this season). Apart from Adam Johnson, there is little creativity in the side and, as mentioned before, scoring goals in a big issue for them as well. Big name players like Altidore, Giaccherini, Steven Fletcher, John O’Shea, Wes Brown etc. have not performed anywhere near to the levels they should be and it has hurt Sunderland. Without the contributions of Johnson, Borini, Ki and Phil Bardsley Sunderland would be a lot worse off at this stage.

Overall, Sunderland’s season has been a mess and it’s not hard to pinpoint why. Poor transfer dealings both in and out of the club harmed the quality of the squad which was made all the more apparent by all of the under-performing players that have not shown for Sunderland this season. It looks like a tough ask for them to stay up at this stage but if they do expect them to be favourites for relegation next season. This season has gone horrible wrong but the knock-on effects could be long-term if they’re not careful.

Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



Photo: Getty Images

With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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English Premier League

Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest

The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.



Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.

Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.

Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.

Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.

As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.

The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.

The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.

If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.

However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.

(Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.

Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.

The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.

Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.

Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.

The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.

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