I fear for Sunderland, even with Moyes in charge, says Kevin Kilbane

Match of the Day 2 analysis

I am surprised Sunderland manager David Moyes warned fans to expect a relegation battle after his side's defeat by Middlesbrough - but I can understand why.

Like everyone else who watched that game, he could see the Black Cats are going to struggle massively with the squad they have got.

I know all about Moyes' strengths in man-management, coaching and tactics from playing under him at Preston and Everton, but I also know the kind of players he needs to build a team that can do what he demands.

At the moment, his squad looks a long way off that.

What happens - or doesn't happen - to change that before the transfer window closes on 31 August holds the key to how Sunderland's season is going to turn out.

I think he needs to sign six or seven players who can have an instant impact otherwise I fear for the Black Cats, even with a manager as good as Moyes in charge.

'Sunderland are short of Premier League experience'

Sunderland's starting XI vs Middlesbrough
John O'Shea and Jermain Defoe were the only members of Sunderland's starting XI against Middlesbrough to have started more than 100 Premier League games

People have compared Moyes' task at the Stadium of Light to the one he faced when he arrived at Everton in 2002 and quickly stabilised them, but this is a much bigger job.

When he took over the Toffees, they were a much better side than Sunderland are now, with miles more experience in their squad.

Moyes had players with character such as Duncan Ferguson, David Weir, Alan Stubbs and Lee Carsley, who were still the backbone of the team when I joined in 2003. They were vocal in the dressing room and organised us on the pitch.

Compare that with the lack of experience that Moyes had to call upon for Sunday's game, when Jermain Defoe and John O'Shea were the only members of his starting line-up to have started more than 100 top-flight games.

O'Shea was the only talker in that team that faced Boro and they lost that when he went off injured after 37 minutes.

I realise that Lee Cattermole, who is exactly the kind of on-pitch leader Sunderland were missing, is out injured at the moment.

It is the same for Jan Kirchhoff, another key performer last season.

But I still think the first two games of the season will have been an eye-opener for Moyes, particularly with the lack of experience in the players he had left to choose from.

'Sunderland have gone backwards, not stood still'

Sunderland's summer signings

With their lack of significant signings so far this summer since Moyes took charge, you might accuse Sunderland of standing still. In many respects, however, they have gone backwards from the position they were in at the end of last season.

The centre-back pairing of Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul, which helped them stay up under Sam Allardyce, is no more. Kaboul has joined Watford and Kone seems intent on leaving too.

On top of that, they are without two loan players - right-back DeAndre Yedlin and midfielder Yann M'Vila - who also played a big part in their run to safety.

Those four players all featured in 10 of Sunderland's final 11 games, when Sunderland's only defeat came at the hands of champions Leicester. Kaboul only missed the last match of the season because Premier League safety was assured.

After that run, everyone expected them to kick on this season, but the uncertainty around the club following Allardyce's exit means that has not happened.

So, Moyes has come into a situation where he is pretty much starting from scratch with his defence and is also short of fit midfielders, especially creative ones.

He has always been willing to give young players a chance when they are good enough, but at his previous clubs they have fitted in around an established core in his team.

At Sunderland, he has been forced into playing inexperienced players such as Donald Love, 21, and Lynden Gooch, 20, when ideally he would introduce them at different times into a settled team.

What makes things worse is that there is no continuity anywhere in the Black Cats side.

Sunderland played the same team in seven consecutive matches during that 11-match run at the end of last season but, out of those 11 players, only three - Vito Mannone, Patrick van Aanholt and Defoe - started against Boro.

'Young Championship defenders are not the short-term answer'

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Moyes praises effort despite Sunderland loss

Sunderland have lost their first two games of the season but there is still a week and a half until the transfer window shuts and I am convinced Moyes will act to plug some of the gaps in his squad.

He has been linked with a couple of promising Championship defenders - Brighton's Lewis Dunk and Barnsley's Alfie Mawson - which does not surprise me, because he always looks to bring in players for further down the line.

But I am not sure either are the short-term answer. Right now he needs people with Premier League knowhow who can go straight into the team and make an instant impact.

That is not guaranteed with any new signing, whatever their background, but Sunderland simply have to take a chance.

If there is no major recruitment and the Black Cats stick with the limited squad they have got, then Moyes will be right - and they will be in for another season of struggle.

Kevin Kilbane was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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