Jan Kirchhoff

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The Way Back (?) for Sunderland

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Sunderland’s gone.

The Stadium of Light side’s decade-plus stay in the Premier League is over, squashed by a series of insipid results in a last-place season.

The latest loss was Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth, one in which the Black Cats battled but couldn’t find the necessary moments that provide points.

[ PL PREVIEW: Watford vs. Liverpool ]

It’s a long road back for Sunderland, one of three teams who will not be considered instant favorites to return to the top flight. Here’s three distinct parts of a path back to the top for the Black Cats. It could take a while.

1) Embrace the fate… — First and foremost, Sunderland needs to accept that its failure was all its own doing. This wasn’t “unlucky”. The Black Cats’ five wins came against teams that hardly lit the league on fire this season: Hull City, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Leicester City, and Watford. They have a minus-34 goal differential, are one of three teams to allow 60-plus goals and have scored a joint-lowest 26. Bad.

2) …And that it’s bigger than Moyes, Big Sam, almost any manager — It’s cute to point to the “heroics” of former managers Sam Allardyce, Paolo Di Canio, or Gus Poyet, but those bosses had more to work with than David Moyes did in this season.

You have to go 65 players to reach Sunderland’s top player through advanced stats site WhoScored, and 39 on Squawka. The former is Jordan Pickford, a player who will be in significant demand as an England U-21 player. The latter is a 34-year-old striker Jermain Defoe, and his rating is based on a hot start to the season (Defoe didn’t score following a brace on Feb. 4, a run that include nine goalless matches for his side).

Both seem gone, and other strong players seem close behind: Papy Djilobodji, Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone, and Didier N’Dong will have suitors, and represent some of the only strong buys in recent years. Will any consider staying?

And Patrick Van Aanholt isn’t coming through that door, while Adnan Januzaj, Jason Denayer, Seb Larsson, and Jan Kirchhoff are out of contract. The Black Cats are going to have to find a way to attract talent to the Northeast when London is the center of football.

3) Follow your neighbors – Now here’s where David Moyes, or whoever, has to convince Ellis Short to open his pocketbook. Newcastle United did it last summer with Rafa Benitez, and pretty much cruised to promotion at its first chance.

Newcastle had better resources to exploit in selling Giorginio Wijnaldum, Moussa Sissoko, and Andros Townsend to the tune of nearly $90 million, and did it along with the feat of convincing notorious bottom-liner Mike Ashley to reinvest almost all of it to get PL somewhat outcasts Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, DeAndre Yedlin, Ciaran Clark, and Isaac Hayden, who have shined in the promotion bid (A clever loan for Christian Atsu didn’t hurt).

They also convinced players who would shine in the Championship: Jamaal Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey, and Ayoze Perez to stick around.

Sunderland doesn’t have any elite young attacking talents and will only make so much money off Khazri, Djilobodji, Defoe, and Kone. And Moyes’ embarrassing “slap” comments make it harder to expect enthusiasm if Sunderland keeps him on board.

But let’s assume there isn’t a better candidate than Moyes to guide the ship — and Sunderland hasn’t had a wealth of options in hiring its bosses at Premier League level — it makes sense to give him and his staff the chance to bring in players who are not his former also-rans at Everton.

Completely speculating, but if Sunderland finds its Ritchie and Gayle, maybe it can buck the trend. It wasn’t Newcastle alone, as there’s a decent standard of finding players from the upper levels to get there: Glenn Murray helped Brighton this year, and Joey Barton and Michael Keane at Burnley in 2016.

Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City: Black Cats buzzing, Luck running out for Leicester

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  • Black Cats up to 18th
  • Own goal, Defoe the markers
  • Leicester two points clear of drop
  • Okazaki pulls one back

Sunderland looked left for dead; Now the Northeast club’s Premier League survival hopes very much alive.

The Black Cats knocked off Leicester City for a third win in four games, kicking the Foxes firmly into the relegation mix after a 2-1 match at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Jan Kirchhoff hit the header than turned into a Robert Huth own goal, making a much-needed return to the Sunderland side.

Demarai Gray found Shinji Okazaki to make it 2-1 with 12 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Victor Anichebe is a striker in form, barely missing with an early laser before seeing a sure goal deflected away from goal to set up a fifth minute corner. The hosts were humming at the Stadium of Light.

Anichebe had a shout for a penalty in the 14th minute while Wes Morgan jostled with him in the box, but his cries were unheard and the big man didn’t go down.

Scary before the break, as Marc Albrighton and with Black Cats midfielder Steven Pienaar came together in an inadvertant collission. Pienaar was left the worse for it.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Islam Slimani didn’t see a seeing-eye pass through the 18 before it struck his shin, and Sunderland dodged an early bullet.

But oh boy. Kirchhoff won a free header by beating Huth to a corner kick, and his effort hit the defender on the way into the goal.

Defoe buttressed the lead with a fine goal, and it was one Sunderland would need following Okazaki’s finish.

Young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford got the job done for the Black Cats down the stretch, and Moyes can puff out his chest for yet another week after a miserable start to the season.

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Ahead of critical Hull visit, Sunderland loses Cattermole for four months

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My goodness, does Sunderland need this Saturday’s match against Hull City.

It’s 20th place versus 18th place, and the bottom-dwelling Black Cats welcome the Tigers with the hopes of closing its six-point gap from safety. Hull’s a point back as well, and looking to lowly Sunderland as a prime place to leap ahead.

[ MORE: Mourinho rues lack of respect ]

The Black Cats could use any boost at this time, and instead are finding more bad news.

Midfielder and longtime club servant Lee Cattermole will not be available for at least four months after suffering a major hip injury.

And he joins a decent list of absences for Saturday’s match (from the BBC):

It had been hoped midfielder Jan Kirchhoff would return from injury but the German will not feature.

Midfielder Jack Rodwell is also out through injury while forward Fabio Borini is still sidelined and Steven Pienaar is suspended.

Despite the injuries, David Moyes will hope his Black Cats can build on a 2-1 win at Bournemouth.

“We need to give the supporters something to shout about and we haven’t done enough of that this year,” he said. “Hopefully we can tomorrow.”

Important players Jermain Defoe, Patrick Van Aanholt, and Wahbi Khazri remain healthy. Could that be enough to beat the Tigers?

How to help Sunderland’s worst start yet

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Diagnosing what ails a team with just two points in October isn’t a challenge, because pretty much everything’s wrong.

The Black Cats of Sunderland have perennially started slow, but this year is the worst yet as they’ve joined 1994-95 Manchester City as the only teams to snare just two points through 10.

Sunderland boss David Moyes is feeling the heat on behalf of his last place Premier League side. He admits that he has not been the life of the party, bringing work home with him.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

“It does make me feel lousy, and I do,” Moyes said. “I don’t feel good about it but you’ve got to take it. I probably spend Saturday night, and quite often, in a darkened room somewhere.”

Moyes said he’s fine by Monday, and star striker Jermain Defoe admits they can’t ignore the table.

“It’s reality. We need to stand up, stick together, and remain positive,” Defoe said.

In the meantime, let’s talk tactics and timeline for those concerned with another Sunderland “great escape”. After all, this isn’t new:

Mark up and claim the ball: Sunderland has allowed eight headed goals so far this season, and that’s three more than any other Premier League club.

While that may lead you to believe the Black Cats aren’t rising up to meet the ball, that’s isn’t quite the case. Sunderland is mid-table in winning aerial 50/50s, so this is more about being organized at the back than desire to win the ball.

And this is also about getting a bit more savvy from young ‘keeper Jordan Pickford (at least until Vito Mannone returns from his elbow injury).

Get the ball and unleash Van Aanholt: Left backs don’t grow on trees, but time and itme again we’ve seen that Patrick Van Aanholt is an offensive threat on a team that has precious few.

Now given the lack of depth for the Black Cats defense, that could mean trying something wild like a 3-5-2. Using Lamine Kone, John O'Shea, and Papi Djilobodji at center back with Van Aanholt as left wingback and Javi Manquillo at right wingback would be interesting.

The problem is what to do with the midfield in that case. Maybe something like this (substituting Jan Kirchhoff for Jack Rodwell once healthy)?

Pickford

Kone — O’Shea –Djilobodji

Manquillo — Rodwell — N’Dong — Van Aanholt

Khazri

Watmore — Defoe

Get to January (and buy): It’s traditionally been hard to get players to join a relegation-threatened club in January, but so many sides were able to snare new talent last season despite their PL status.

Frankly, David Moyes doesn’t have the talent to consistently snag points in the Premier League (Though he definitely has the players to get more than 2 through 10 matches!).

January 1 is the first day to add players, and Sunderland can find some points despite their depleted roster. Of their nine games, only three opponents are in the Top Eight.

Saturday — at Bournemouth
Nov. 19 — vs. Hull City
Nov. 26 — at Liverpool
Dec. 3 — vs. Leicester City
Dec. 10 — at Swanswa
Dec. 14 — vs. Chelsea
Dec. 17 — vs. Watford
Dec. 26 — at Manchester United
Dec. 31 — at Burnley

Premier League injury update ahead of Matchday 8

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After a busy two weeks of international games, there are plenty of injury concerns for Premier League managers ahead of Matchday 8.

[ MORE: Wenger on Bellerin ]

Below is a roundup of the major injuries at each club as the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Mousa Dembele could return after making the most of the two week break and healing quickly, while Aaron Ramsey and Harry Kane remain out and it’s not looking good for Liverpool duo Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana.

Here’s the ProSoccerTalk injury report.


Arsenal

Francis Coquelin (declared fit)
Olivier Giroud (back injury, doubtful)
Aaron Ramsey (stepping up recover, not available this weekend)
Per Mertesacker (knee injury, January return)
Danny Welbeck (knee injury, January return)
Carl Jenkinson (returned in U23 game, week or so from match fitness)


Bournemouth

Harry Arter (back in full training, in squad)
Marc Pugh (back in full training, in squad)


Burnley

Tom Heaton (calf strain, should return to squad)
Ashley Barnes (hamstring injury, late October return)


Chelsea

Victor Moses (back in squad, available)
John Terry (back in squad, available)
John Obi Mikel (back in squad, available)
Kurt Zouma (knee injury, late October return)


Crystal Palace

Scott Dann (declared fit)
Loic Remy (thigh injury, November return)
Pape Souare (broken leg, April return)
Jordan Benteke (knee injury, late January return)


Everton

Phil Jagielka (thigh injury, out)
Romelu Lukaku (in full training after thigh injury)
Leighton Baines (in full training after hamstring injury)
James McCarthy (in full training after groin injury)
Darren Gibson (in full training after groin injury)
Mo Besic (knee injury, out until February)


Hull City

Michael Dawson (knee ligament injury, close to return)
Alex Bruce (Achilles injury, out until December)


Leicester City

Danny Drinkwater (groin injury, back in training and squad)
Matty James (ankle injury, no return date)


Liverpool

Georginio Wijnaldum (awaiting scan on hamstring injury, highly doubtful)
Adam Lallana (yet to train after groin injury, questionable)
Dejan Lovren (groin injury, should be in squad)
Nathaniel Clyne (knee injury, should be in squad)


Manchester City

Kevin de Bruyne (returned to full training, could return to squad)
Raheem Sterling (hamstring injury, could return to squad)
Vincent Kompany (back in training, not likely to be risked)
Fabian Delph (could return this weekend)
Bacary Sagna (hamstring injury, early November return)


Manchester United

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (thigh strain, should return to squad)
Phil Jones (knee ligament injury, late October return)


Middlesbrough

James Husband (dislocated shoulder, now available)
Grant Leadbitter (hernia, late December return)


Southampton

Ryan Bertrand (hamstring injury, questionable)
Cedric (foot injury, set to return)
Matt Targett (questionable)
Shane Long (hamstring injury, questionable)
Jay Rodriguez (groin injury, set to return)
Sofiane Boufal (in full training, could make debut as part of squad)
Jeremy Pied (ACL tear, out for season)


Stoke City

Joe Allen (hamstring injury, no return date)
Glen Johnson (hamstring injury, back in squad)
Jack Butland (ankle injury, November return)
Stephen Ireland (broken leg, February return)
Ibrahim Afellay (ACL injury, February return)


Sunderland

Jason Denayer (groin injury, out)
Jan Kirchhoff (hamstring, late November return)
Victor Anichebe (groin, back in training)
Lee Cattermole (back injury, could return to squad)
Steve Pienaar (hamstring, could return to squad)
Adnan Januzaj (ankle injury, early November return)
Fabio Borini (groin injury, late December return)
Vito Mannone (elbow, late November return)
Sebastian Larsson (knee ligament, February return)


Swansea City

Jefferson Montero (back in training, could be in squad)
Federico Fernandez (back in training, could be in squad)
Fernando Llorente (back in training, could be in squad)
Nathan Dyer (ankle injury, mid November return)


Tottenham Hotspur

Mousa Dembele (returned to training, questionable)
Harry Kane (remains out, may return to full training late next week)


Watford

Issac Success (dead leg, back in squad)
Craig Cathcart (groin injury, back in squad)
Miguel Britos (thigh injury, back in squad)
Daryl Janmaat (shoulder injury, late October return)
Jerome Sinclair (hamstring injury, no return date)
Stefana Okaka (hamstring injury, back in squad)


West Bromwich Albion

No injuries


West Ham United

Gokhan Tore (out injured, thigh injury, mid November return)
Sam Byram (hamstring injury, no return date)
Arthur Masuaku (knee injury, no return date)
Andre Ayew (thigh strain, late October return)
Diafra Sakho (Back injury, late October return)
Aaron Cresswell (returned to full training, in squad)
Havard Nordtveit (returned to training, in squad)
Jonathan Calleri (returned to training, in squad)