Premier League review: Is Steve Bruce’s time running out?
Alex Sharp looks back at another action-packed weekend of Premier League football, as Sunderland struggled again
Steve Bruce is officially under the cosh and seems up against Steve Kean in the sack race to become the first Premier League manager to be shown the door this season.
Sunderland lie in 16th, two points off the relegation zone and without a league win in four games. The Black Cats have won just two of their last 15 League games at the Stadium of Light – it doesn’t make happy reading for fans.
Bruce’s men lost 2-1 against a struggling Wigan side on Saturday and handed the visitors their first away win of the season thanks to some woeful finishing and a Wes Brown howler.
However, the problems lie deeper than Saturday’s shocker. Bruce’s side had 11 attempts on target against Wigan and should have coasted to victory – but a reoccurring theme for Sunderland is shocking finishing and a catalogue of wasted chances.
At the final whistle Bruce walked off to a chorus of boos and abusive chants. In addition, the new owner was at the Stadium of Light and added in his programme notes that he wasn’t too pleased with his side’s league position. All the signs are there – surely soon Bruce will be given the chop.
The Sunderland boss hasn’t been helped by some “˜star’ players leaving. Asamoah Gyan swanned off to the UAE league for a grotesque pay cheque, while Darren Bent saw the grass to be greener at Villa Park. The Black Cats have clearly missed their goals.
Bruce has an injured Frazier Campbell, Nicklas Bendtner blazing high and wide, alongside a promising youngster in Conor Wickham who needs time to adapt to the top flight. Stéphane Sessègnon has looked lively but hardly has the class and firepower to land Sunderland the 15-20 goals that they desperately crave.
As a result of Jordan Henderson setting sail to Liverpool, Bruce had roughly £13m to bolster his strike force and has clearly failed to add a spark.
Their midfielder Sebastian Larsson is their top scorer on four – that speaks volumes for Sunderland’s misfiring front-line.
Wes Brown and John O’Shea have persistently struggled with injuries in recent years and both have lost the quality that surrounded them at Old Trafford for so long, shielding their average abilities.
This was exemplified by Brown’s Per-Mertesacker-esq defending on Saturday, which cost his side three points.
Titus Bramble lacks the quality and credentials to keep Sunderland water-tight when they’re trying to kick start their spiralling season.
The picture painted is a dark and gloomy one but if Bruce was to lose his job who could pick up the pieces? Martin O’Neil springs to mind but he would demand a hefty transfer kitty having become frustrated under his owner last time out at Aston Villa.
It’s been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League that there has been manager stability across the 20 clubs, however, if Bruce’s Black Cats keep on misfiring, his nine lives could well be up.