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Can Sunderland Pull Off The Greatest Of Their Escapes?

Can Sunderland Pull Off The Greatest Of Their Escapes? Sunderland have been involved in a relegation fight in every season since 2013

Sunderland have escaped relegation in each of the last four seasons, but David Moyes may face the club's most perilous position yet.

From Paolo Di Canio knee-sliding across the St James' Park pitch in 2013, to Sam Allardyce dancing in front of the Stadium of Light last year, Sunderland's relentless fights against relegation have illustrated just what survival does to people.

Avoiding the drop has become such a recurring theme for the club that Gus Poyet's declaration that the Black Cats' 2014 escape would be remembered "for years to come" looks rather shortsighted now.

Since Martin O'Neill secured a 13th-placed finish in 2012, Sunderland have been involved in a relegation battle in every season, and this campaign is no different. Incumbent manager Moyes leads the charge against the latest challenge heading into March, with the club having not been in a worse position after 26 matches than they are now.

Sunderland's plentiful history of miraculous recoveries does give the former Manchester United and Everton boss examples to follow though, and here we examine just how the North-East club have pulled off their escapes in recent years and whether Moyes can repeat the trick.


Di Canio was appointed Sunderland manager on the final day of March after O'Neill was sacked having left his side just one point above the relegation zone. Following a narrow 2-1 defeat away at Chelsea, back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Everton gave the enigmatic Di Canio an immediate cushion over the trailing pack. The 3-1 victory at their local rivals prompting wild celebrations from the Italian.

Paolo Di Canio led Sunderland as they avoided the drop in 2013

However, the touchline knee-slide proved a little premature as Sunderland limped over the line, failing to win any of their final four matches before sealing their status after a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham on the final day.

Having been 13th at this stage in the 2012-13 campaign, Di Canio's side finished 17th. After a poor start to the following season the former West Ham striker was dismissed after just 13 games in charge.


Fabio Borini's winner against Chelsea in 2014 sparked a late season revival

A nine-match winless run left Sunderland bottom of the table in April 2014, six points off safety with five games remaining. Fabio Borini's penalty earned a stunning victory at Chelsea, the catalyst for a four-game winning streak that included another sensational away win, a 1-0 triumph at Manchester United.

The Black Cats eventually finished at the dizzy heights of 14th under Poyet after collecting 13 points from a possible 18 in their final six games, proving to be the club's most remarkable end-of-season turnaround in the Premier League so far.

League position after 26 games

2013 13th

2014 18th

2015 16th

2016 19th

2017 20th


Jermain Defoe arrived in January but it was Costel Pantilimon who proved the hero in the 2014-15 season. Dick Advocaat replaced Poyet with the club one point above the drop zone in March 2015.

Jermain Defoe scored just four league goals in his first season at Sunderland

They slipped into the relegation places despite a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Stoke, only to then beat Southampton at home and Everton away before securing their survival at the Emirates with a goalless draw against Arsenal. Pantilimon made a string of impressive saves to keep the Black Cats from losing.

After winning four matches between August and March, they then won three games in five under Advocaat to secure their top-flight status.


Sam Allardyce could not help but dance after Sunderland's final win of the season in the 2015-16 campaign

Sunderland lost just once in their final 11 games last season as current Crystal Palace boss Allardyce guided them to survival. That defeat, a 2-0 loss to champions in waiting Leicester, left them four points adrift with six games to go.

They preceded to rattle off three wins from those remaining fixtures, beating Chelsea 3-2 at the Stadium of Light and holding Arsenal to a goalless draw.

Collecting a higher average points total over the last 12 matches of the season (1.33 per game) than each of the previous escapes since 2013, Sunderland finished 17th, with Allardyce departing to take the vacant England job in the summer.

Average points collected over final 12 PL fixtures

2013 0.83 points per game

2014 1.17 points per game

2015 1.03 points per game

2016 1.33 points per games


Since 2013 Premier League clubs have required an average of 35.25 points to finish 17th and avoid relegation, meaning Sunderland require 1.35 points per game to reach this total.

Moyes' side are currently acquiring points at a rate of just 0.73 per game which, as well as ranking significantly lower than the required points-rate, is also much lower than they have managed in the final 12 games of each of the last four seasons.

Moyes faces three of the Premier League's top six in the club's final seven games this season, beginning with the visit of Manchester United on April 9, live on Sky Sports 1HD.

Bottom of the table and three points off safety, the club take on Manchester City this weekend in the first of 12 games to save their top-flight status in what is their most perilous position yet. Just seven points separates the bottom seven teams in the Premier League though, and Moyes could yet make it five in a row and guide the club to safety once again.

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Can Sunderland Pull Off The Greatest Of Their Escapes?
Richard Okoye

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