Why Martin O'Neill Will Be the Next Premier League Manager Sacked
For the Premier League in England, summer is always a time of change.
Transfers aplenty are brokered, agreed upon and signed, loans take place with ever-increasing frequency—and plenty of managerial switches also occur.
Usually the accepted notion is that new coaches take a while to bed in their ideas, improve their new team's fortunes and start an upward trend.
The time allowed to do so depends on the club; Liverpool and Tottenham hired new bosses this year to bring about a new way of playing. Two or three seasons would be expected to be given to each man before assessing whether he's doing a good job or not.
Chelsea gave Roberto Di Matteo precisely four months this season.
Following the Italian out of the Premier League was QPR boss Mark Hughes, who has been replaced by Harry Redknapp.
Who is next for the chop?
There might be several candidates if their teams don't start picking up points, but one stands out above the rest. Step forward, Martin O'Neill.
Poor Run of Results
First and foremost, Sunderland are in the midst of a dreadful run of form.
O'Neill took over from Steve Bruce midway through last year and immediately got an upturn in results from his team, but it didn't last the entire campaign.
At least he had that good spell though; this season Sunderland have been nothing short of woeful from the get-go.
Just two wins from 14 games tells its own story, with only one of those coming at home. Along with QPR, the Black Cats have the worst goal-scoring record in home league games this season; the Mackems have seen just five goals scored by their own team so far.
The poor run goes back further than August though; since back-to-back wins at the beginning of February they have won just four times in 28 games in the Premier League.
Stretched over an entire league season, that winning rate would give them only five victories this season—definitely relegation form.
Failure of Transfers to Shine
Sunderland didn't bring in too many players this summer just passed; in fact compared to last year they were positively inert in the market.
Martin O'Neill did, however, spend big on two attackers; winger Adam Johnson and striker Steven Fletcher cost a combined £22 million.
The forward has done his bit with six goals in 13 games, but he has only scored once in his last eight appearances.
Johnson has been far poorer, considering the outlay on him and his reputation. Three assists is no mean feat in a team who score so infrequently but Johnson needs to offer more to the team to get them out of this slump.
Fellow signings Carlos Cuellar and Louis Saha were both free transfers; Cuellar has been a regular in a defence that has conceded 18 goals, and Saha is yet to start a league game.
All in all, not a great summer's work for O'Neill.
Team Too One-Dimensional
Sunderland are set up to, in theory at least, be strong and compact in defence and quick on the counterattack.
In a straight-forward 4-2-3-1 Martin O'Neill likes pace and direct players down the flanks that is often where Sunderland will try to attack from, with only Stephane Sessegnon capable of causing danger centrally.
The reliance on him to be creative if the wingers can't beat their men and deliver crosses is too much of a burden considering the team averages just 45 percent of possession in their games.
O'Neill Has Always Had a Set Way of Playing; Football Has Moved on
A calmer, more measured man in interviews these days, O'Neill has surely lost none of his love for the game—but he is perhaps lacking in accepting a different approach is needed.
No longer can Premier Leagues rely on counterattacking at pace. Teams are too well-drilled, organised and strong to be fobbed off by such an approach on a ceaseless basis, and O'Neill's sides in England have rarely offered anything more.
Once spoken about as a successor to the likes of Alex Ferguson, he is instead looking more like another example of a manager unable to change his methods to keep up with the intensity of evolution in the Premier League.
Sunderland Are in Real Danger of Going Down, with Few Signs of Progress
The bottom line is, Sunderland are currently just one point above the relegation zone with the halfway stage of the season rapidly approaching.
QPR and Reading are falling behind, but Rangers have already ditched their old plan and brought in a new boss. Reading have played well in spells but lack top-flight nous to close out wins.
Southampton on the other hand have improved recently, spent money in the summer and have confident, technical footballers.
Aston Villa, just above Sunderland in the table, are sure to improve as the season goes on, and Wigan Athletic have proven their capability to survive the drop on more than one occasion.
It is truly looking like Sunderland are going to struggle this season, and with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur all to play in December it is difficult to see where the next run of points is going to come from.
The Black Cats have some capable players but there is a big chance they will begin 2013 in the bottom three at this stage. With the transfer window then open for reinforcements, Martin O'Neill's time could be up if his team don't show significant signs of improvement beforehand.