Sunderland are fighting for survival again this season, and again this season it appears increasingly likely that they will get to remain in England’s top flight for at least one more season. And, just like last year, a Liverpool loanee is once again key to their survival chances. Last time around, Fabio Borini’s goals were key to keeping the Black Cats up. This year, it’s Sebastian Coates at the other end.
After hardly playing under Gus Poyet, the arrival of Dick Advocaat in March saw Coates’ chances improving alongside the club’s, as Sunderland have fought their way out of the relegation zone and Coates has established himself as a regular. And increasingly—and rather surprisingly given the first half to the season—it has begun to appear as though Coates may have found himself a new, long-term home in the Premier League.
"He’s been very solid in the last couple of games," remarked his new manager. "That’s given him a lot of confidence. When you come in as a manager, you maybe have expectations for the players, and in the past he had hardly started a game. But we saw him improving in training and I was maybe not so happy with Santiago Vergini, so I thought we’d put him in. He’s done well and that’s the reason he’s still playing."
Sunderland are very nearly safe, and that is largely thanks to their improved form—and improved defensive play in particular—under Advocaat, who has taken them to 16th, three points clear of 18th place Hull City and with Newcastle sandwiched in between looking the most at-risk side not currently in the bottom three. They face a tough task to achieve mathematical safety, though, traveling to Arsenal tomorrow and Chelsea on Sunday.
"From the moment we arrived, the players have given everything," said the Sunderland manager. "They have been very positive with the way they have enjoyed the training, and that has been reflected in the results. We have fought to get the points, and with good organisation you can see what you can achieve."
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