Eye On EPL

Sacking David Moyes would not have saved Sunderland

While Sunderland looked like they had paid the price for their reluctance to switch managers despite struggling early on in the season, they were always likely to be relegated from the English Premier League.

Their problems go well beyond their manager David Moyes.

I've watched Sunderland play and fundamentally, they do not have a strong enough squad. Once again, the Black Cats have been overly reliant on striker Jermain Defoe, who single-handedly saved his team from being relegated last year when he scored 15 goals.

This season, Defoe's 14 goals account for more than half of Sunderland's overall tally of 26. And Defoe has scored four times more than any of his team-mates.

Should Moyes have been replaced earlier in the season in an attempt to avoid being relegated?

Leicester City were fourth from the bottom and on a five-match losing streak when they sacked Claudio Ranieri in February. They won five straight matches after the Italian left and they are now 11th, safe from the drop. But their case is different from Sunderland's because fundamentally, they have more quality.

By sticking with Moyes, club owners probably opted to place their faith in a tactician who has plenty of experience in managing clubs in top-flight football.

Whoever was in charge at Sunderland, it would have been an uphill task to save them from being relegated. After all, they have spent just two weeks outside the relegation zone this season.

Realistically, there were not many good managerial candidates for the cash-strapped club, which has more than £150 million (S$270.8 million) in debt, to choose from. By sticking with Moyes, club owners probably opted to place their faith in a tactician who has plenty of experience in managing clubs in top-flight football.

After all, Moyes was a former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad coach.

After last weekend's 0-1 loss to Bournemouth which confirmed that Sunderland are going down for the first time after 10 years, Moyes' future remains uncertain.

Although fans are calling for the Scot's resignation, an old hand in charge could be what the club need next season if they want to be promoted again.

Look at Newcastle's Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard remained with the Magpies this season playing Championship football and he has successfully guided them back to top-flight football for the next season.

Changing managers is a common remedy for struggling clubs who want a change in their fortunes. But it does not guarantee success if a new manager has little or no experience in English football, or the squad are lacking depth and quality players.

Crystal Palace, Hull City, Swansea City, who are 16th to 18th in the league standings respectively, replaced their managers earlier in the season. But they are still locked in the relegation battle and one of these three clubs will likely go down at the end of this season.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2017, with the headline 'Sacking Moyes would not have saved Sunderland'. Print Edition | Subscribe