After surviving the drop in 2014-15 by just three points, Sunderland have another battle on their hands in 2015-16.
With Sam Allardyce at the helm, can they survive another fight at the foot of the table?
History in the Premier League
Sunderland’s first season in the Premier League was in 1996-97, which ended in relegation.
They went on to spend four seasons in the top flight between 1999 and 2003, achieving two straight seventh-place finishes in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, which remains their highest position in the Premier League to date.
Having faced the drop again in 2003-04, the Black Cats found themselves in the second tier for two seasons. Their return to the Premier League (2005-06) saw them relegated with a then record low of just 15 points.
However, Sunderland came straight back up for the 2007-08 season and have been in the Premier League ever since. They finished 10th in 2010-11, yet most of the club’s time (since coming up in 2008) has been spent in the bottom half of the table.
Before joining Sunderland, ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce had managed four different Premier League sides: Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn and West Ham. He has enjoyed varying degrees of success in the top tier.
Allardyce took over as Bolton manager in 1999 when they were in ninth place in the second tier. He set about transforming the team and led them to promotion in time for the 2001-02 season. Allardyce left Bolton after eight years in 2007.
Allardyce also led Bolton to a League Cup final, as well as the club’s first ever qualification for the UEFA Cup.
After an unsuccessful eight-month spell at Newcastle, he joined Blackburn in 2008, taking them to 15th and saving them from the drop.
He performed a similar feat at perennial yo-yo club, West Ham. He helped the Hammers get promoted from the second tier, and left the club after an 11th place finish in the Premier League during the 2014-15 season.
His ‘long-ball’ style proved unpopular at both Newcastle and West Ham. But as the Sunderland board knew when they appointed him boss in October 2015, Big Sam’s no-nonsense style and no frills attitude may be just what they need to get out of trouble.
After playing a major part in saving Sunderland from the drop in the 2014-15 season, striker Jermain Defoe’s goals are key to the club’s survival in the top flight.
The 33-year-old joined the Black Cats from Toronto FC in January 2015, and his play in the final third helped his team survive during the second half of 2014-15.
In that season, Defoe’s vital contributions included goals against Newcastle and Everton in April and May of 2015. In March of 2016, he was named as the Premier League’s best substitute after scoring a goal against Southampton.
Without Defoe, Sunderland would almost certainly be rock bottom of the table. The fact that we have him at 125/1 to finish top scorer in 2015-16 (as of March) shows the striker’s importance to his club’s survival in the top flight.
While we offer pretty short odds on Sunderland getting relegated, our experts see Allardyce leading his side out of trouble by their skin of their teeth.
Big Sam has certainly improved things at the Stadium of Light and his experience of surviving the Premier League should help keep them safe.
As this is the second season in a row that the Black Cats have faced a battle against the drop, we just wonder if they’ll be able to do the same in 2016-17.