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Sunderland continue their revival

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After a disappointing start and the first managerial casualty of the season, Sunderland's fortunes have improved drastically.

Under new manager Gus Poyet, they are winning more games and picking up more points than under Paolo Di Canio.

As they bid for survival, we take a closer look at how it is looking increasingly likely that they will achieve this.

The catalyst for Sunderland's recent form was the League Cup victory over Chelsea on December 17. Since then, the Black Cats have gone on to record 15 points in just eight games.

In that run, Sunderland have recorded 1.8 points per game. If they continue playing that well then in the remaining 14 league games they will pick up a further 25 points. This will give them a final points tally of 49. That will surely be enough to save them from relegation. Not even Paolo Di Canio's comments, in which he branded Phil Bardsley 'rotten', have had a negative effect on the team.

In fact, it seems to have given them extra incentive to do even better.

I initially thought, and still stand by the fact, that Sunderland bought too many players last summer. Some of them, such as Andrea Dossena and Mobido Diakite, just haven't performed. The ones that have, however, have been invaluable to their bid for safety.

Vito Mannone looks like a completely different player to the one we saw at Arsenal. He has kept back-to-back clean sheets in his last two games and has out in some man of the match performances; most notably against Everton at Goodison Park. But is has been two of their loan signings who have impressed me the most.

Both Fabio Borini and Ki Sung Yueng arrived on Wearside with something to prove. They offer a creative spark, the ability to do something out of nothing, which wasn't demonstrated enough last season; Stephane Sessengon offered this but was far too inconsistent. Not only does it inspire the crowd but inspires others around them.

Right now, though, the star of the Sunderland show is undoubtedly Adam Johnson. He has scored six goals in his last four games and must surely be the first name of the team-sheet. Johnson has been very inconsistent over the last couple of years but currently can almost guarantee an 8/10 performance every week. If he continues to play as well as he is then a spot in Roy Hodgson's squad looks likely.

It could be argued that Sunderland will get even better. They are playing fantastic at the moment even though none of their main strikers - Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore - are not doing much in front of goal.

Altidore is a right handful to play against; he battered Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor last Saturday, but simply doesn't score enough goals.

I was a little surprised when Sunderland signed him in the summer, despite having a very good record in Holland, the Premier League is a whole different ball game.

The Sunderland hierarchy must have been a little underwhelmed by his last stint in the top flight with Hull back in the 2009/10 campaign: he netted only once in 28 games.

He hasn't improved his fortunes this season either; scoring just once in 20 games so far this term.

Sunderland fans will be hoping Fletcher finds his old form once again. Last year, he scored a league goal every 2.5 games. This season, however, he has scored on average every 5.6 games.

Johnson and Borini have been in electric form over the recent few months. If Poyet tells them to find Fletcher more often then it's only a matter of time before he starts scoring again; it's what he does best.

Despite this, Sunderland are now much improved in front of goal as a whole. During Di Canio’s final five league games in charge they managed just 10 shots on target from 62 efforts. Under the previous five league games under Poyet, however, they have found the target with 23 of their 69 shots.

They have improved their accuracy which is helping them score more goals. Under Di Canio, only 16% of their efforts hit the target compared to 33% under Poyet.

What has struck me this season is how good they have played in big games. Since Poyet has taken over, Sunderland have gone on to defeat Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United. More importantly, however, they have also done the league double over arch-rivals Newcastle for the first time since 1967.

They seem to thrive in the big game atmosphere and have not looked overawed in any of the respective games.

If you were to ask the Sunderland fans which game they are most looking forward to, the answer would almost unanimously be the Capital One Cup final against Manchester City.

The League Cup has actually been somewhat of a curse in recent years. Sunderland will be keen to avoid Birmingham's fate in 2011 when they were relegated despite winning the trophy.

Last season, Swansea won only two of their last eleven games after lifting the trophy at Wembley in February. I wonder how many Sunderland fans would take relegation along with winning the cup.

The result either way could have massive effect on Sunderland. If they win, there could be a feeling of complacency around Wearside. They could perhaps think their season has been accomplished. If they lose, however, the morale around the Stadium of Light could be at an all-time low. The loss of confidence could affect them in the remaining games.

This season's relegation battle will be one of the tightest in Premier League history. With only three points separating Stoke in 11th and West Ham in 18th, picking up three points is crucial.

What Sunderland have done in recent weeks is beat the teams around them (Fulham and Stoke). I think that their momentum at this moment will see them continue to pick up points.
Confidence is a major factor when you’re competing at the bottom. Sunderland play on the front foot and attack teams, with the quality they have in attacking areas such as Johnson, Borini and Ki, then it is only a matter of time until they score.

I believe that Sunderland will win enough games and pick up enough points to survive this season.

Do you think Sunderland will be relegated? Let us know in the comments below.

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Topics:
Sunderland
Premier League
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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