Dick Advocaat is hoping familiarity will combine with a couple big purchases to help Sunderland avoid a relegation fight for the first time in a while.
[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]
The Black Cats have finished in the top half of the table just once since returning to the Premier League in 2007-08, and that season saw the club slip as low as 14th before finishing 8 points clear of the drop in a log jam table.
[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club ]
So the hope this time around is that Advocaat can get a big season out of January transfer Jermain Defoe while helping Adam Johnson and Jack Rodwell to career years. He’ll also have big buy attacker Jeremain Lens and three defensive additions as on-loan Sebastian Coates is now a full-fledged Black Cat to go with new boys Younes Kaboul and Adam Matthews.
Best possible XI:
— Pantilimon —
— Jones — Kaboul — O’Shea — Van Aanholt —
— Larsson — Cattermole — Giaccherini —
— Johnson — Defoe — Lens —
Transfers In: Younes Kaboul ($5 million, Tottenham Hotspur), Jeremain Lens ($12 million, Dynamo Kyiv), Adam Matthews ($3 million, Celtic), Sebastian Coates ($6 million, Liverpool).
Transfers Out: El-Hadji Ba (Undisclosed, Charlton Athletic), Santiago Vergini (Loan, Getafe), Jordan Pickford (Loan, Preston North End).
Star player: Costel Pantilimon — It’s sexy to say Lens, but we haven’t seen him in a league this good from top to bottom, only in the Netherlands and Ukraine. You could easily argue that Pantilimon was the reason Sunderland stayed up last season, as the lanky former Manchester City man made big save after big save for the Black Cats.
Last season: 16th in the Premier League – Sunderland finished three point above the drop and, after drawing on Opening Day to place sixth, weren’t higher than the 11th they posted after two weeks. Stoke City bounced them from the League Cup after two rounds, and the Black Cats were bounced by Bradford in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Coach’s corner: Dick Advocaat was convinced to stick around for another year, and has better ingredients this time around. The former PSV, Rangers and Zenit Saint Petersburg boss has his work cut out for him, but his front line of Johnson, Defoe and Lens — with Fletcher available as a reinforcement is as good as the Black Cats have had in a while.
PST predicts: This will be another trying season for the Black Cats, who will struggle with the drop zone at points in the season before, as is usually the case, pulling out an escape.