Gus Poyet's side were involved in a relegation scrap throughout last season and only eventually moved away from the dog-fight thanks to a remarkable run of form that saw them win four and draw one of their last six games.
The defeat was a final day reverse to Swansea City once their status had been secured and they also recorded impressive wins away to Chelsea and Manchester United, while eventual champions Manchester City needed a late equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw at the Etihad.
Sunderland have so far made a respectable start to this term; a 2-2 draw away to West Bromwich Albion on the opening day was followed up with a point at home to United at the Stadium of Light.
However, Phillips, who played for the Black Cats from 1997-2003, predicts that they will once again struggle to pull away from the relegation battle.
Phillips said: "If I am being honest, I would say I can see another season of struggle for Sunderland this campaign."
"I have said the same about two of my other former clubs in Aston Villa and West Brom. I sincerely hope this is not the case as I have a huge soft spot for Sunderland and probably the most out of my former clubs and for good reason."
"That said, with my selfish head on, these three teams struggling would mean my current employers, Leicester, have a good chance of staying in the division."
"But on the evidence so far and the signings Sunderland have made, I can see it sadly being a long old season for the club."
Gus Poyet's side travel to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon, and the Uruguayan coach is understood to be keen to add to his squad before the September 1 deadline.
Liverpool's Fabio Borini remains high on Poyet's shortlist and the Black Cats have tried all summer to make his move permanent after his successful loan spell last season.