Sunderland relegated: What went wrong under David Moyes?
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 01/05/17 11:12am
After Sunderland were relegated to the Championship with their 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth at the Stadium Light, we look at what went wrong for David Moyes' side.
When Sunderland clinched survival last season, Sam Allardyce highlighted the importance of signing the right reinforcements in the summer. "We've just secured the financial side of being in the Premier League, which is the most important thing," he said. "Now it's how wisely we spend it. The next set of recruitment is crucial."
It was a clear message to the board, but Sunderland endured a deeply frustrating summer in the transfer market. Allardyce's appointment as England manager in July disrupted preparations but by then he had grown frustrated at missing out on a number of targets, and few of the new signings who arrived under his successor David Moyes were able to make a positive impression.
Sunderland have faced more shots on target this season (211) than any other Premier League side.
Didier Ndong did not live up to his club record £13.6m fee, while the likes of Javier Manquillo, Donald Love, Papy Djilobodji and Jason Denayer failed to stabilise the defence. Moyes' former charges Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson have only started 15 games between them since arriving from Everton for a combined cost of £9m in January, while Joleon Lescott has only played 33 minutes in four months.
Sunderland's poor transfer business was compounded by widespread injury problems. They started the season without key midfielders Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole and Sebastian Larsson, while forwards Fabio Borini, Duncan Watmore and Victor Anichebe also succumbed to injuries later in the campaign.
There was also a costly knee injury to goalkeeper Jordan Pickford - one of only a handful of Sunderland players to come out of the season with his reputation enhanced. During his six-week spell on the sidelines between December and February, Sunderland only won once in 11 games.
Jermain Defoe's form has been one of the few bright spots for Sunderland this season, with his goalscoring exploits even earning him a first international call-up since 2013 for England's games against Germany and Lithuania in March.
The problem, however, is just how much Sunderland have come to depend on him. With 14 goals this season, Defoe has scored nearly five times as many as any of his team-mates. His tally accounts for 52 per cent of the Black Cats' overall figure - the highest percentage any Premier League player has scored for a team this season.
Highest goal contributions - Premier League 2016/17
|Player||Goals||% of team's total|
Sunderland's Defoe dependence has been particularly apparent in recent weeks. The 34-year-old has only found the net twice in his last 13 appearances. With only five other squad members making it onto the scoresheet this season, their deteriorating form is no coincidence.
When Sunderland won three games out of four at the Stadium of Light before Christmas, Moyes insisted their home form was a clear sign of progress. The Black Cats seemed to be climbing away from danger, but since then, they have failed to win in nine games at their own ground.
It is a dismal run which has made grim viewing for the club's fans. Heavy defeats to Stoke City and Southampton were particularly difficult to stomach, and Sunderland have not even managed to score in six of their last seven games at the Stadium of Light. In total, they have only found the net 16 times in 18 home games this season.
The circumstances have not been easy and many of Sunderland's issues predate Moyes' arrival, but the Scot certainly deserves a considerable share of the blame for their demise. His habit of signing players from his previous clubs did not pay off, and he set a grim tone for the campaign when he told supporters to expect another relegation battle back in August.
From that moment on, it was always going to be difficult to instil belief in the squad or in the stands. And when results nose-dived in the second half of the season, Moyes responded to the pressure by telling a female reporter, "You might get a slap, even though you're a woman". The FA are seeking Sunderland's observations on that comment. It was an ugly blot on a dismal season.