Humiliated Sunderland and Gus Poyet face critical month

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at The Stadium of Light on April 12, 2014
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Sports Mole looks ahead at a critical month for Sunderland and manager Gus Poyet following their 8-0 drubbing at the hands of Southampton last week.

Five months after guiding Sunderland from a miraculous escape from the dropzone of the Premier League, Gus Poyet must once again rally his side following their 8-0 hammering at the hands of Southampton last week.

The Black Cats equalled their record loss at St Mary's Stadium with a display of abject defending, leaving the Wearsiders boss to admit that the afternoon was the "most embarrassing time" he had spent on a football pitch.

Poyet now faces a massive challenge to reinvigorate his side for their clash with Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.

However, the Uruguayan may have shown the first sign of frustration at Sunderland, hinting that he wasn't happy with the quality of players provided in the summer by the club's recruitment staff.

He told reporters: "I'm a head coach. I don't make the squad, that's not my job.

"I've four defenders, I play what I've got. I'll take responsibility at a set piece – it was me, I pick the team and put it on the pitch. The rest, I'm sorry, I'm not going to take."

The Black Cats spent in the region of £15m in the summer, with the majority being used to sign Jack Rodwell from Manchester City, who has had an inconsistent start to the season. Meanwhile, injuries to fellow signings Billy Jones and Sebastian Coates have left Sunderland short of options at the back.

Whether this was simply an overreaction to seeing his pride dented or something deep dwelling only time will tell, for a club who have had four permanent managers in three years, and six in six years since Ellis Short assumed full control of Sunderland in 2008.

For all the problems and jibes created by a humiliating defeat, the Black Cats are still three points behind seventh-placed Arsenal going into their match, so the sky isn't falling for Poyet's men, yet.

However, Sunderland are now set to a run a gauntlet of fixtures especially at the Stadium of Light, where following their clash with the Gunners they come up against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City at home, while they also travel to Crystal Palace and Leicester City.

The Wearsiders' home form has been good this season in light of playing against difficult opposition, and they will have to maintain that to escape this run of games outside of the bottom three.

Their miraculous run to safety last season showed there is a strong spirit in the Sunderland squad, and that cannot afford to be lost with ructions in the camp, least of all from the manager.

A strong performance against the Gunners, even in a defeat, will quell a lack of confidence in the players and eradicate doubts about their quality in the mind of Poyet.

A repeat of their response to their 5-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur at the end of last season, when the Wearsiders narrowly lost to Everton at the Stadium of Light, could be just what they need, as that performance proved to be a prelude to their escape from the drop.

Although, another capitulation could turn things critical on Wearside. The next month will see if the Black Cats will once again be embroiled in a bitter relegation battle, for the second straight season in the top flight, and give a huge indication of Poyet's long-term future at the club.

Ronald Koeman, manager of Southampton looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield on August 17, 2014
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