Coach: David Moyes
2015/16 Finish: 17
2016/17 Preseason Ranking: 17
Sportify Rating: 1476
2015/16 Wagebill: £77M (higher than Leicester in 2015 season for perspective)
Stadium capacity: 48,707 at Stadium of Light (6th largest in EPL)
Departures: Liam Agnew (released); Wes Brown (released); Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday); Emmanuel Giaccherini (Napoli); Danny Graham (Blackburn); Steve Harper (released); Mikael Mandron (Eastleigh); Adam Matthews (Bristol City); Martin Smith (Kilmarnock); Santiago Vergini (Boca Juniors)
The good: Grit
Whether Paolo di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat or Sam Allardyce has been at the helm, the Black Cats have done just enough in each of the last four seasons to avoid relegation. Four seasons running, the team has finished with less than 40 points but managed to stay in the top division. Last year was yet another narrow success as they finished two points above local rivals Newcastle in 17th. Sunderland’s 37.8 xG was 17th, as was their 57.3 xG conceded; in each category they finished ahead of the relegated teams, Newcastle, Norwich and Aston Villa. A core group has seen the club through these battles each of the past four seasons (namely John O’Shea, Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson), but they also added some key pieces last January (Wahbi Khazri, Jan Kirchoff and Lamine Kone) who supporters will hope can carry the team onward and upward.
The bad: Lack of depth in attack
Jermain Defoe was left to shoulder most of the load for the Sunderland attack last season. The Englishman’s 15 league goals accounted for 34% of the team’s total, and he either took or assisted 33.5% of the team’s xG. Sunderland certainly couldn’t have avoided the drop without Defoe’s goals last year, and while the aging forward may be a year wiser, putting all of a team’s attacking eggs in a 33 year old basket is a definite risk.