Half a decade in and a lot has changed on the banks of the wear, with the riches of Hungary behind us, we have established ourselves in the premier league 4 seasons of top half football is what I’d like to think qualifies us for that. We’re a solid top half team now and I’d like to think we need to push up to move onto that next level of constant Europa league qualifiers and possible champion’s league qualifiers. The top 6 are only getting stronger players turn us down for the lack of champion’s league football, within a decade of football (so we’re half way there) the target is champions league football and try and establish ourselves as one of the big clubs.
The first signing of the summer was English Centre back Axel Tuanzebe for £36.5m the centre back id been tracking for a while and he should go straight into the side. The United man is joined by the Dutch former Dortmund centre back Rick Van Drongeien another id been tracking for a while and despite spending over £60m on two centre backs ill make room in the squad for both of them as both were MUCH better than those who played there last season, the biggest outgoing for us was Pineda who played so well for us had his head turned by Manchester City and left to join them for £50m I probably could have got more for him but he was starting to kick up a fuss to leave.
Also leaving as American midfielder Weston McKenzie who left for Chelsea for £42M. Another departure was Ruiter who had made 71 apps for us but had fallen behind Pickford in the pecking order he joined PAOK for £1.1M
The opening day of the season couldn’t have gone much better for us as in front of a 38k strong home crowd we smashed Bournemouth 4-0 thanks to Arp bagging 2, Brooks and Itter with the others. We also won our first away game of the season too as a brace from Brooks was enough for us to take all three points at the riverside a poor performance against Southampton seemed to spur on an excellent run as we went unbeaten for 11 games winning 8 of those games as we somehow went flying to the top of the table.
Including a big win over Reading as Blackman bagged a hat-trick, A Lo Celso goal was the difference in the first Tyne Wear derby of the season a narrow win over Manchester United at old Trafford was a big highlight as Arp got the winner. Arp was on the scoresheet again as we got a big win at home to arsenal as Carey now eligible for the squad scored the opening goal on the way to a 3-0 win.
We were also minutes away from claiming a victory at Stamford Bridge before we conceded a cheap goal as we started to stutter. The draw with Chelsea started a run of 1 win in 5 games as only a Blackman strike got us the win at home to Everton. We drew with West ham before losing back to back games for the first time this season against Ipswich and West Brom in two of the worst performances we’ve played we responded well again with wins over Spurs, Manchester City and Middlesbrough as we kept pressure up on the top four we were looking great for a top two spot then we slipped and looked solid for a top four spot.
Then the second half of the season rot we always seem to have set in I wondered if this seasons was down to the cup runs. But our form after January was shockingly bad wins sandwiched in-between clumps of back to back defeats. Reading and Liverpool was the first set, we then beat Watford and stoke but struggled to a home draw with Newcastle as they scored with their only two shots on target.
Another two defeats this time against Manchester United and Arsenal put a massive dent in our unlikely title hopes at the top of a very tight table. A big win against Brighton was welcome relief though in that run as we lost in back to back away games against Everton and in our first trip to the Bobby Robson Arena. By this point we were sitting 6 th we had gone from solid top four to the top four had left us behind 4 th was the best we could hope for and we had games in hand we won the first of those as goals from Alena and Almeida sealed the win.
But we slipped to defeat at the Etihad and we had gone back to square one. We still had a chance but we had to beat West ham, Liverpool and Tottenham all at home to claim the 4 th champion’s league spot and pip arsenal on goal difference. We started that well as Piroe and Blackman got the goals in a solid win over the hammers in front of a pathetic 28k. I didn’t expect much against Liverpool and when we went a goal down things looked bleak but we came back with a vengeance as Almeida levelled the scoring before brace’s from Arp and Brooks sealed a win meaning victory over Spurs at home would seal a champions league spot.
But it wasn’t to be as in front of 41k we battered them in search of the opening goal, but we just couldn’t find it as the 0-0 meant we finished 5 th and sealed Europa League football again.
We had a good time in the cups this year good but not brilliant as we only made the semis of all three competitions. In the League cup we edged past Gillingham in round three thanks to two goals from Asoro at the stadium of light Asoro scored again in round four as we demolished a young spurs side at home as Carey bagged his first Sunderland hat-trick.
Quarter final saw another tough draw as Chelsea came to the stadium of light again we conceded first before mounting a comeback this time Arp and Carey getting the goals to put us in the semi-finals. The first leg saw us go 2-1 up thanks to Carey but we collapsed in the second half with United claiming the first leg win, and despite Arp scoring at old Trafford we couldn’t get the goal to force extra time and we were out.
The FA Cup we started in the third round this time with a potential banana skin tie of Tranmere away but we made light work of that and eased past them 3-0 as Rivero a new January signing headed home twice from corners before Piroe sealed the win. The fourth
round saw us travel to Spurs and again they fielded a mixed team similar to the League cup and we took advantage of that as Arp scored twice and Brooks grabbed our third on course to the 5 th round. In round five we took on Millwall one of my disliked clubs mainly due to that 2003 -04 FA Cup semi-final defeat.
I Like to think we got revenge as we absolutely trounced them two deflected shots went down as own goals but a hat-trick from Arp set up a last eight game with Chelsea. Chelsea gave us a hard time but we just about edged it in a back and fourth game with a game winner from Arp at Stamford Bridge. The Semi-final at Wembley saw us score an excellent goal (check it out on FMAcidphire21) from brooks Arp doubled out lead and we were on course to head to the Final before a crazy few minutes in first half stoppage time saw us go in level, before a second half goal sealed the win for Everton.
In Europe thanks to Cup wins for other sides last year. We were drawn in a fairly easy group as we were put in Group A with Dutch side AZ, Portuguese side Guimaraes and polish side Leiga. The aim was to take maximum points at home then look to take a point on the round which would be enough to see us back into the next round. And we did that as Carey was on target against AZ, Arp bagged two in a win at home to Guimaraes and Carey bagged 2 on our way to a 3-0 win at home to Leiga. On our travels we were held in Poland [1-1] and Portugal [0-0] but edged to victory in Holland [2-1] as we set up a First Knockout Round Tie against Italian Giants Lazio.
We travelled to the Olimpico with the aim of bringing a draw back to the Stadium of Light but we did much more than that as Brooks traded goals with Lazio as we went in 2-2 at the break before Arp and Carey put us in a commanding position an own goal towards the end summed the game up for the Italians. Who then came to the stadium of light dug in and claimed a 0-0 draw! The second KO round saw a tie with Belgian side AA Gent I expected a must better game than I got as a brace each from Arp and Blackman and one from Brooks sealed a big 5-3 win on the continent in the home leg made it 9-3 on aggregate as Brooks Itter, Tuanzebe scored with Odegaard grabbing his first for the club since his January arrival.
Quarter final saw us play in Turkey for the first time and in two tight games It took an own goal to seal a home win, before Brooks grabbing an equaliser in turkey sealed a 2-1 aggregate victory. The Semi-final was a tough one as we had to play German side Wolfsburg a poor first ten minutes saw the Germans go 2-0 up Brooks pulled one back before we tried to push for an equaliser but we just couldn’t do it. In Germany Arp gave us a lead and we pushed for a winner after they pulled it level but we just couldn’t do it to get us into the final of the Europa League.
Around the World saw Zinedine Zidane lead Manchester United to their first Premier League title since Alex Ferguson.
In the championship it saw Burnley pip Leicester as they both bounced back to the premier league with Hill beating wolves in the play-off final as wolves lost the final for the second consecutive year!
Real Madrid lifted another La Liga title as they beat Barca to the title by 7 points Conte’s men won at the Camp Nou and drew at home.
PSG Sealed their fourth title in five years as they beat Monaco to the title this time by three points.
Juventus claimed another title as they beat Inter to the Scudetto, this time by a massive 17 points the top two in Italy have been the same for the last 5 seasons! (Palermo slipped out of Serie A)
Bayern Munich claimed the title again but this time Leverkusen finished 2 nd and pushed Bayern all the way finishing only 5 points behind they also piped RB Leipzig to 2 nd by a point.
In the Champions League it was another Appearance by a German side as Bayern in 19’ (Won) Bayern in 20’ (Lost), RB Leipzig in 2021(Lost) shows the strength of the top sides in the Bundesliga. Bayern went on to claim the trophy as they beat Monaco on Penalties.
In the Europa League despite our run to the semis it was Sporting Lisbon who claimed the Europa League as they claimed a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg a De Kuip for the trophy and a place in next seasons champions league.
The 2022 world club is about to be played it was moved to Argentina and five Sunderland players will be on the plane as Pickford and Alexander-Arnold got the call up for England, Carey goes to represent the Socceroo’s, Lo Celso was included in hosts Argentina squad and Salcedo for Paraguay a full round up will be posted in next years end of season post.
It was decent year for my youngsters too, as the Under 23’s led by former Spanish legend Cesc Fabregas won promotion back to the Premier League 2, and our Under 18’s led by Swedish Legend Zlatan Ibrahamovic made the U18 final after winning the northern division they lost to spurs in the national final I will look to both squads for anyone ready to step up once I’ve taken a good look at my squad for next season