Sunderland boss David Moyes is facing calls for his head just eight Premier League games into his reign, with the club marooned at the foot of the table.
Here, we take a look at what might lie behind the Black Cats’ latest battle for top-flight survival.
1. This is what Sunderland do.
Moyes was castigated for his admission earlier in the season that the club would be engaged in yet another scrap at the foot of the table, but history suggests that was harsh.
Sunderland have flirted with the drop in each of the last four seasons and escaped only by virtue of their late heroics, having twice won just one, and twice none of their opening eight league fixtures.
Not once in those four seasons have they reached 40 points, and the longer they play with fire, the more likely it is they will be burnt.
2. The loss of Younes Kaboul and Yann M’Vila.
When Sam Allardyce dragged the club across the finishing line with a game to spare at the end of last season, he was able to call upon central defender Younes Kaboul, who had emerged from a slow start on Wearside to establish himself as a rock at the back, and midfielder Yann M’Vila, who quickly became a fans’ favourite with his powerhouse displays on loan from Rubin Kazan.
It came as a significant blow, therefore, when Kaboul unexpectedly headed for Watford in a Â£3 million move in August and M’Vila failed to arrive on a permanent deal before the summer window closed.
3. Youth and energy are no substitute for experience and know-how.
Moyes signalled his intention from the off to lower the age profile of his squad in a bid to introduce greater dynamism, and the additions of Donald Love, Paddy McNair, Adnan Januzaj and Didier Ndong, coupled with Jordan Pickford, Lynden Gooch and Duncan Watmore, have helped him to do that.
But what the youngsters have brought in terms of energy has at times been out-weighed by a lack of experience at the highest level.
4. Injuries have hit hard.
Moyes’s plans have been thrown repeatedly into disarray by injuries which have severely limited his options.
Of the 11 men who started the night in May when the Black Cats secured their Premier League status with a 3-0 home win over Everton under Allardyce, only three were available to his successor at Stoke on Saturday, with five of the absentees – Vito Mannone, Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole and Fabio Borini – unfit.
5. Jermain Defoe can only do so much.
The deal Sunderland struck to swap misfiring United States frontman Jozy Altidore for Defoe in January last year must go down as one of the best in the club’s history.
His four league goals during the second half of the 2014/15 campaign and the 15 he managed last season proved invaluable in fending off the drop. He has four to his name so far this season, but crucially they have yielded only a single point.