Sunderland Opinion – Five defeats in a row is a damning statistic, whatever the level

Matt Keeling wonders when our run of defeats is going to come to an end


Sunderland have lost five league games in a row for the first time since December 2015. Sam Allardyce’s side lost to Arsenal, Watford, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool – take the Hornets out of that and it’s probably not surprising.

Michael Beale and Mike Dodds have presided over consecutive defeats to Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City, Swansea City, Norwich City and Leicester – take the Foxes out of this and it is probably surprising.

The eight-and-a-bit-year gap between losing five games in a row was quite surprising to me actually. Yes, you wouldn’t expect that to happen in League One (though we did lose four out of five in 2022), but I thought the Moyes team and the utter shambles of the Championship relegation team would have managed it – yet they didn’t.

Losing five league games in a row is a pretty damning statistic no matter the teams you play against, and the run Sunderland are on is pretty unforgivable given the opposition.

This isn’t a piece about sacking Tony Mowbray and all of that, because we’ve said all of that, but I don’t think many would have envisaged the season to take this turn if you’d asked them in early December. We were on a poor run of form, but nothing quite like we are on now. We always carried a threat; yes, the over reliance on Jack Clarke was evident and look at us now. He’s injured so we create barely anything.

Sunderland have scored two goals in the run of five defeats, one of which scored by Clarke at Birmingham, and the other from defender Luke O’Nien. We’ve hit the woodwork on a couple of occasions, maybe could have had a penalty or two, but the threat is non-existent.

The loss of Clarke would be a massive blow for anyone in the division, especially with the loss at the same time as the creativity on the other wing, Patrick Roberts. The issue is at the moment, we have no-one who looks even remotely competent to step up to replace him.

It’s pointless (I hope) saying that “this is what it will be like without Clarke next season”, because perhaps foolishly I think the replacement for him will not already be at the club. At least I really hope so.

But the lack of quality is a concern. There are flashes, there are moments, but there is nothing sustained. We have a decent 10 minutes or so, and it comes to nothing. We should have equalised against Leicester, but we did not. We took the lead at Birmingham, but we were hideous.

The players look raw and they look shellshocked. We saw elements of this last season, the run when “the season died” saw the young squad overawed at times, but Tony Mowbray and the senior players galvanised them, and the kids came through it.

Mike Dodds has to do something similar, but it is very different. The quality of the squad last year, certainly compared to its current state, was much better. The lack of experience now is eye opening – O’Nien, the only real senior pro, is suspended. And the lack of experience extends to the management – Dodds, an impressive coach, with less than 10 games as a manager.

It is a bad time for Sunderland AFC, and really, it’s largely of their own doing. A series of decisions gone badly wrong, have resulted in this. It would take something pretty wild for us to get relegated, but the fact that we are more likely to finish closer to the bottom three than the top six should serve as a warning. It feels as if we have regressed somewhat, and undone a lot of good work.

It isn’t the fault of Mike Dodds, but it rests on him to turn it around. Five in a row could become six, seven, eight, if this doesn’t halt soon. We face teams fighting for their lives in the coming weeks, and they won’t be easy. Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the season, God, no, surely we couldn’t… no. We won’t.

It could be quite close though, and if nothing else it needs turning around for some momentum into next season. No one wants to end the season with a record like three wins in 18 games. Especially if you’re in a long interview for the job.

A strange time then, a pretty nasty one. One that we have to turn around pretty quickly, before talk in the pub starts to include “thank Christ QPR got beat today.”