It was always going to be a difficult task to pick up the pieces at Sunderland after the devastation caused by Paolo Di Canio at the club. The size of task for Gus Poyet was a steep one with demoralised players and not the slightest semblance of a team being built. This was not only due to the exodus of three of the stars, a mixed influx of replacements and a third of the squad in the last year of their contracts.
A whole shambles was left in the wake of the Italian and the challenge to clear it up has proved to be so problematical. It was also complicated especially with the dichotomy the Uruguayan set himself, to change the style of play and to stave off relegation at the same time. Following the Spurs game, it certainly now looks impossible to accomplish both. It seems as though he has fallen into the trap between the devil and the deep blue sea, which I always feared.
Two consecutive and great home wins against the Mags and Manchester City and a hard-worked point at Aston Villa raised some hope that the dreaded drop could be avoided. The fixture list has not been too kind. But to me, some reward was needed from last week's pair of games at the Stadium of Light, albeit against tough opposition from west and north London. Nothing was gained despite a praiseworthy spirited performance against Chelsea. The defeat by Spurs was another matter, underlining how inept the team so often plays.
The writing looks clearly on the wall and Poyet has now gone on record admitting that the players are just not good enough and are “too easy” to play against. The Spurs game spoke volumes about what is wrong with a team still trying to find its feet, so vulnerable to have concede no less than five own goals and little sense of creativity from the middle of the park to attack. Yet it is more than a third of the way through the season, trying to learn from mistakes that should have been ironed out by August.
To me the biggest issue is not only where the club goes from here, but to start to prepare for the eventuality of being relegated. Unless you believe in magic, there appears to be so little chance of Sunderland retaining their status in the Premier League. The virtual certainty of going down has to be not only accepted but factored as a vital ingredient in all future planning. Any attempted quick fixes using the January transfer window could prove to be highly costly and cause even more disarray.
The onus is on owner Ellis Short and he must be prepared to pay the heavy price for his blunders. Poyet is ambitious and could have the potential to become a good manager, better than any candidate likely to take the post. If it was not decided when he was appointed, his position needs to be clarified as a priority between the two men, come what may. At the end of the season, the Uruguayan should not be looking for a new job and Sunderland looking for yet another head coach. Deep breaths but the severity of the situation needs to be faced and now.