One of the benefits of observing the Premier League from overseas is that every match is accessible to view.
For the overwhelming majority of this season, Sunderland’s tragically comic efforts have been best watched from behind the sofa, but on Saturday, one screen in the Young household displayed the lopsided contest at the Britannia, while the other broadcast Swansea’s encounter at Arsenal.
At this tender stage of proceedings, it looks to be a case of three from five contenders
Amidst the visual juggling act, an immediate – and alarming – conclusion was reached over how vastly better-equipped one of Sunderland’s supposed relegation rivals are to avoid the drop.
Admittedly, Swansea were benefiting from the new manager bounce (Sunderland invariably the ones to benefit from that at this stage of proceedings) and a trip to the Emirates hands players a nothing-to-lose mentality where they can invariably perform without the shackles of relegation pressure.
But Swansea’s superiority in every facet to Sunderland was so gallingly evident, despite the Welsh club slipping into Sunderland’s world of instability over the last 18 months.
They have lost ex-Sunderland transfer target Andre Ayew. More tellingly, they have lost Ashley Williams, who was the bed-rock of the entire club, in a similar fashion to Kevin Ball during his playing days on Wearside.
Yet guided by new boss Bob Bradley – patrolling the touchline decked all in black; like a vicar without a dog collar – Swansea should have earned a share of the spoils after spurning two or three golden opportunities to draw level late on against the 10-man Gunners.
In Gylfi Sigurdsson, they have a real injection of quality in behind the front-man, while Mo Barrow has such searing raw pace, that he moves the team up the field in a matter of seconds and relieves the pressure of being pinned back in their own half.
Even though Swansea are second bottom and in real trouble, they’re chalk and cheese to a Sunderland side, who are currently defined by laughable attempts at defensive solidity, appalling decision-making and STILL no discernible game-plan after eight games of the campaign.
Sunderland so strongly resemble last season’s Aston Villa outfit – both in terms of capitulations and dubious recruitment – that, at present, it’s difficult to see them even remaining competitive in the relegation battle. Even if Moyes’ men can hastily get their act together, are their three teams worse than them in the top flight? The most optimistic of Sunderland fans are struggling to conjure a convincing answer to that one.
At this tender stage of proceedings, it looks to be a case of three from five contenders – Sunderland, Swansea and the three newly-promoted teams.
Stoke may have been gifted an elusive first victory of the campaign, but let’s face it, the Potters aren’t going to be fighting against the drop in May. They never are. They’re one of those annoyingly unflashy sides like West Brom, who perennially do enough to linger in that mid-table bracket.
That’s the benefits of stability and a manager who lasts long enough to move out of his hotel and into an actual home…
All of the three top flight new-boys, Hull, Boro and Burnley, are beginning to find it a struggle, and that’s not a good sign at this stage when harnessing the momentum from promotion and converting it into points is all-important.
That should give Sunderland some hope.
Yet at least there’s some grit and character in the ranks of the promoted trio. There’s precious little sign of that at Sunderland, other than on the terraces.
In his brief tenure at the start of last season, Dick Advocaat – as brutally honest about the limitations of his side as Moyes has been this year – outlined his hope that Sunderland would still be in contention for survival at Christmas, and then gradually progress once the summer signings bedded in.
Moyes’ ambition won’t be any different. In fact, he’d jump at being among a pack of struggling clubs at the turn of the year.
It’s not mission impossible either, despite yet another summer of wholesale turnover leaving an uncoordinated side with no wins from eight games.
Fourth bottom Hull are only five points better off than Sunderland. A shock success at West Ham on Saturday and the picture changes entirely.
But Sunderland are giving off that whiff of resignation where all signs point to them being cast adrift by Christmas.
The fortunes of their relegation rivals are utterly redundant unless Sunderland can reach a tally in that 35-40 points bracket.
When players continue to ball-watch, continue to surrender possession in mindless areas of the field and continue to pass up rare chances to score, then Villa’s haul of 17 measly points from 2015-16 looks a more realistic proposition than staying up.