WILL BORO AXE HAVEAN IMPACT ON CATS?

Sunderland are now the only side in the bottom six not to have changed their manager this season.

Friday, 17th March 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:52 am
Sunderland are the only bottom six side not to change manager this season

That is a remarkable statistic for a club who have not had a boss complete a full campaign since Steve Bruce in 2011.

With little appetite for change in the club hierachy, David Moyes is set to break that spell, regardless of where the Black Cats head in the next few weeks.

David Moyes

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Middlesbrough will now be hoping that the change in manager can have the same affect that a switch has had for the other sides near the bottom.

Marco Silva, Craig Shakespeare, Paul Clement and Sam Allardyce have all improved their respective sides, and Boro will be hoping former Black Cat Steve Agnew can do the same.

So ahead of a crucial game against Burnley, is this the final nail in the coffin for Sunderland?

It will in all likelihood make their task even harder...

David Moyes

What affect will it have on Boro?

In the short term, Agnew’s side face a Manchester United outfit likely to be leggy from a Thursday night Europa League tie against FC Rostov.

Aitor Karanka has been heavily criticised for putting defence first this season but with such little preparation time and any result a bonus, they will likely sit deep and look to frustrate.

But what then? Just how likely are Middlesbrough to replicate the surges elsewhere?

A short-term bounce is far from guaranteed.

Marco Silva had it, Paul Clement had it and Craig Shakespeare certainly had it, but Crystal Palace took six games to win a league game under Sam Allardyce.

If that happens at Middlesbrough then they will be as good as relegated.

A crucial problem Agnew has of course is that unlike most of the aforementioned managers, he will not have the chance to shape his squad in the transfer market.

Many thought selling Robert Snodgrass was the death knell of Hull’s season but in Kamil Grosicki, Oumar Niasse and Lazar Markovic, Silva has been able to completely reshape his side into a counter-attacking unit, that injection of pace making them a resilient outfit at home.

Swansea’s signings of Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson seemed initially underwhelming but have helped Clement move to a successful 4-4-3.

Luka Milivojevic has toughened up Crystal Palace and Patrick van Aanholt already has a crucial goal from left-bak.

Agnew has to go with what he has and may face the same struggles as Karanka in finding more firepower in attack.

Of course, Craig Shakespeare has not been able to intervene in the market, but quite clearly Leicester’s revival is an exceptional case. He has returned to a successful formula that the players understood and bought into, results and performances have reverted to where they were last season.

On Teesside, Karanka has a squad and a side built unmistakably in his own image, and that mould will be significantly harder to break.

The one concern for the Black Cats is if Agnew can bring players isolated under Karanka back into the fold, such as Stewart Downing, that might spark a big boost in morale.

It is a major task, however, and there are no guarantees that Karanka’s departure will spark an upturn. Worth remembering, too, that Boro have a brutal run-in, facing four of the top six in their last six league games.

So what next for Sunderland?

Boro have a three-point cusion on the Black Cats and if they do replicate Leicester’s surge, it will be as good as over for Sunderland.

It is tough to see them catching up and overtaking two of Hull, Palace, Leicester and Swansea as it is, without throwing another side into the mix.

One of the big question marks is whether Agnew stays until the end of the season or whether Boro opt for a manager like Nigel Pearson. If that happens it may well initiate a spark that Sunderland themselves have seen so often in recent seasons.

Either way, the Burnley game is one of the biggest of Sunderland’s season so far.

For all the new manager bounces elsewhere, Sunderland still have four of the bottom six to play and showed at Selhurst Park that they can handle those high pressure games at the end of the season, new manager or not.