Dick Advocaat arrives at Sunderland: Five things for the Dutchman to address to avoid Premier League relegation

A new boss has been installed at the Stadium of Light. Here Martin Hardy looks at things in his in-box

Dick Advocaat has been appointed by Sunderland for the final nine games of their season. Here's what he will need to address...

1. Win the derby

However dire things have been in recent seasons for Sunderland, they have established an unprecedented dominance in the Tyne-Wear derby. The new man has the perfect opportunity to create momentum with a win against Newcastle in what will be his first home game in charge, on 22 March.

Newcastle are riddled with problems of their own, without a permanent head coach, a centre-forward or their captain. The last two Sunderland managers, Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet, both discovered the winning formula against the club’s arch-rivals and the need to win is even greater, given the perilous Premier League position.

2. Play on the front foot

Here are some stats: Two wins in the league at home all season. One league win in 2015. Eight games in which Sunderland have failed to score at home. Sixteen games in which Sunderland have not scored. Twenty-three goals scored in the Premier League all season, the division’s second worst.

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Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring Villa's fourth goal

 

That should paint a picture of how miserable and joyless a campaign this has been. Poyet crushed the life out of his side and he was crushing the life out of the club’s support – witness the mass evacuation during the first half on Saturday. Sunderland became unwatchable. Adding flair, being more positive, trying to actually win games; these elements are imperative for the new man.

3. Feed Defoe

Jermain Defoe has still got goals in him but Poyet’s negativity meant he was starved of service. The former England striker became an isolated figure in a team that created precious little.

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Jermain Defoe

 

Putting a strike partner beside him would be a major step in the right direction. Poyet rotated Steven Fletcher, Connor Wickham and even Danny Graham, usually in a wide left position in which no centre-forward enjoys playing.

Aston Villa’s new manager, Tim Sherwood, galvanised Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor to such an extent that they smashed four past Sunderland on Saturday. The new man at the Stadium of Light needs to hugely improve the service to his goalscorers, and mainly Defoe.

 

4. Win at home

The paucity of entertainment Poyet produced in his team is best highlighted by how grim Sunderland were at home. Two victories, against Burnley and Stoke, is a shocking record to carry into the middle of March.

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A view of the Stadium of Light

 

Sunderland’s supporters deserve praise for putting up with such poor football for so long. There were almost 46,000 in the ground on Saturday, at least when the game started. The Stadium of Light has gone through periods where it has been a fortress for the home side. It feels nothing of the sort and the new man must rediscover that key, missing ingredient.

5. Don’t criticise the support

Poyet’s time at Sunderland was coming to an end the moment he started criticising the club’s own supporters.

The Uruguayan always seemed to be unhappy about some element of the club, but the move to have a go at fans after they encouraged the team to be more positive and try to beat Queen’s Park Rangers was the beginning of the end.

It was interesting that Roy Keane was at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Keane had an excellent relationship with the fans, as Poyet did last season. Eroding that left Poyet with nowhere to go once his record this season was scrutinised.

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