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April 2016

PREVIEW: Stoke City vs Sunderland 

Sunderland travel to the Britannia stadium this weekend looking for a win against out of form Stoke which will keep them above the drop zone.

The Black Cats currently sit in 17th place down to their superior goal difference over Norwich City and are one point above local rivals Newcastle.

The form guide

Sunderland go into the game on the back of a draw at home to Arsenal and have picked up four crucial points in their last two outings. The pairing of Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone in the middle of defence has been key in their revival. The pair have conceded just two goals in 523 minutes of football both coming from Jamie Vardy.

Stoke go into the game having not won in four and have conceded 12 goals in just three games. City are at the point in the season when fans wish for it to be over, but manager Mark Hughes has stressed it isn’t over until it’s over and has demanded for his players to keep going.

Injuries and Team news

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce once again declared this week that he has a full squad of players to choose from. Sunderland have no fresh injuries to their side.

Stoke City have been hit with lots of injuries over the past few games. Ibrahim Affelay has a serious knee injury, Shay Given came off with an injury last time out but may return. Xherdan Shaqiri and Jon Walters are also expected to return. Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson also miss out with injury.

Predicted XI’s

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Opinion

I’ve heard people all week speak about winning this game as though it is a given. I really do feel this is going to be a tough game. Mark Hughes has came out this week and said how important it is for his side to cut out bad results and the importance for his players to put on a show for the fans, even though their season has faded out as it draws closer to the final day. It’s important for Sunderland to play how they have in recent weeks and I think Allardyce will look to set up in a similar way to the last away trip when we won 3-0 at Norwich.

Newcastle have Crystal Palace at home and you would make them favorites to win. However, I think this will be a hard fixture for the magpies with Palace needing just one point for mathematical safety.

Norwich have a big task on their hands away to Arsenal and you would expect them to be beaten comfortably.

None of these results are a given and it’s going to be important for the lads to show the same spirit they have in recent games. Let’s get behind the team once again… Ha’way the lads!

Sunderland 0-0 Arsenal

Arsenal were held to a draw by a resilient Sunderland, who moved out of the relegation zone above Norwich and local rivals Newcastle.

Patrick Van Aanholt saw his free kick come agonisingly close, hitting the outside of the right post.

Alexis Sanchez bent his free kick towards goal but Vito Mannone saved excellently.

Lamine Kone came close with an overhead kick which went just wide of the left post.

Both sides had penalty appeals for handball but referee Mike Dean refused to blow his whistle.

Sam Allardyce named the same side which saw his team beat Norwich away last weekend. Arsenal had Jack Wilshere on the bench after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to another injury.

Sunderland showed the same spirit they tend to show year in year out and defended brilliantly throughout the full 90 minutes. The draw saw the Black Cats move above Norwich and out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

Allardyce’s side have now lost just one game in their last seven. The pairing of Youness Kaboul and Lamine Kone in the heart of Sunderland’s defence has been pivotal to their revival in recent games. Kaboul was brought in at the start of the season and was paired alongside John Oshea, but since the arrival of Kone in January the pair have been a revelation.

Kone himself got the man of the match award and deservedly so. Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchoff were once again excellent in midfield. Yann M’vila struggled to do the basics as he has in recent weeks but may just be going through a bad spell in form.

Allardyce was a little frustrated in his post match press conference and claimed his side could have nicked the game 1-0. He also said: “We’ve got ourselves out of the bottom three now for the first time in many months and the challenge now for the lads is to stay out of it.”

   Match Stats   What’s Next?

Sunderland have four games remaining to secure survival, starting with Saturday’s trip to Stoke, followed by the visits of Chelsea and Everton and a journey to Watford on the final day. Arsenal can do Sunderland a favour by beating Norwich next Saturday.

    My predictions.

Stoke (Away) – Win 3 points.

Chelsea (Home) – Draw 1 Point.

Everton (Home) – Win 3 Points.

Watford (Away) – Draw 1 Point.

It might be in hope but I really do think we will stay up from now. With Stoke away next weekend and them having nothing to play for, my gut instinct tells me we can go and pick up three points. The game against Chelsea at home will be a test, but the way we’ve been defending I see us getting a point against a team who again have nothing but pride to play for. The game against Everton at home I see as winnable with the way they have been playing lately, the scrutiny the manager is under and the amount of injuries they have. Then comes the last game of the season which every Sunderland fan dreads. We pray each year that the relegation battle won’t come down to the last day and I personally don’t believe it will. I do think that if it did we could pick up a point anyway.

The game this weekend against Stoke City I feel is going to be the turning point. We could go and win and put distance between us and our relegation rivals or we could go and lose and our hard work against Arsenal could be undone. For the neutral that is the beauty of this time of the season but for the fans of the three horses running in this race it is going to be unbareable.

We do what we always do and keep fighting until the end. Ha’way the lads!

Analysing Sunderland’s nine years in the premier league, will they ever complete a year in the top flight without the threat of relegation?

Since bouncing back from the Championship one year after their relegation in the 2005/06 season, Sunderland AFC have battled relegation year in year out. With a current nine-year stint in the premier league, when will Sunderland become a cemented fixture in the top flight?

In the 2005/06-season Sunderland were relegated with the second worst ever Premier league points total of 15, second to Derby County who finished with just 11 in 2007/08. This was arguably one of the darkest times in Sunderland AFC’s history.

The statistics

With the Black cats ninth season in the premier league reaching its climax, Sunderland are following the familiar pattern of battling relegation. With the only exception being the reign under Martin O’Neill when the side finished 10th and 13th in back to back seasons. O’Neill’s time in charge of Sunderland was statistically the most successful since the teams’ promotion back to the premier league. Big name signings were made like Darren Bent, who had a prolific record in his time at the club. Bent signed for an initial fee of ten million pounds and scored 32 goals in 58 appearances before moving to Aston Villa in 2011. Sunderland have now found a striker like Bent in Jermain Defoe who currently has 16 goals in all competitions this season. Defoe is 11th on the premier league all-time top scorer list which gives great fire power to the Black cats’ front line.

Lack of Stability?

Since O’Neills sacking in March 2013, Sunderland have had three permanent managers in just three years. Stability is an important asset within any club and the lack of stability at Sunderland has arguably been down to the constant change of manager.

Paulo Di Canio was brought in back in 2013 and was in charge for just 13 matches. He won just three games, losing seven and drawing three leaving the side bottom of the premier league. Gus Poyet was appointed in October 2013 after Di Canio’s short time in charge, lead Sunderland to the Capital one cup final at Wembley and kept them in the top flight. Poyet was a big hit with the Sunderland fans, even though his win percentage was just 7% better than his predecessor. He managed 75 games in his time at Sunderland, winning 23, drawing 22 and losing 30. The popularity came from his first seasons success. Then came the experienced Dick Advocaat who took charge with just two months of the season left and Sunderland in the heart of yet another relegation battle. Advocaat kept the club in the league with a draw in the last game of the season at the Emirates, drawing 0-0 with Arsenal. Dick’s temporary time at Sunderland became permanent when his short term spell saw him fall in love with the club. However, he lasted just two months into the current season and resigned on October 4 winning just four games in 19.

How does the current regime compare to others?

The experienced, no nonsense Sam Allardyce took charge of the club in October 2015 of this season. He currently has a win percentage of 26.1%. But how does Allardyce compare to recent managers Sunderland have had? Sam has never been relegated with any team and has the formula for keeping teams stable. People think of Allardyce and link him with his time at West ham and is labelled for his ‘boring football’. However, people don’t remember the fact he got West Ham promoted back from the championship within one season, which is no easy task. He also converted West Ham into a stable premier league side. His years with Bolton saw him qualify for European football.

January Signings

Allardyce made some good signings in the January transfer window, bringing in hot prospect Wahbi Khazri, no nonsense defender Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchoff from Bayern Munich and Dame N’doye who although may not be seen as the most glamorous of players, has been in a relegation fight with Hull City last season. Since joining the club, Allardyce adopted the 4-3-3 formation and has made clean sheets a priority. Sunderland have conceded just 39 goals which is an excellent stat in comparison to relegation rivals Norwich who have conceded 60 and Newcastle United who have conceded 62, three worse than already relegated Aston Villa.

The Premier league demands

The demands of being in arguably the best league in the world get higher every season. The expected points total to stay in the league has always been 40 points but the task of getting to that stage proves harder and harder each year for many teams. Many clubs have the idea that spending money is the key to finishing as high as possible and that has been the case over the years. However, now more than ever the key aspects of doing well in this league come down to team spirit, consistency, a manager with experience and high work rate. Leicester are a fine example of how to each of these things correctly. Now I’m not saying Sam Allardyce is gonna lea Sunderland to titles right now, but he certainly possesses certain aspects as a manager which can only enhance the black cats chances of doing better year in year out.

The key to survival

In January 2015 Sunderland signed number 11 on the all-time top goal scorer list in premier league history, Jermain Defoe. It has always been apparent that Defoe would be key to Sunderland’s survival but since the turn of the year it has been more important for him to score than ever. With 16 goals in 30 appearances this season, Sunderland may have been already relegated without the prolific Englishman. Defoe is seventh in the current league standings and just nine goals behind current top scorer Harry Kane who has played four more games than the thirty-three-year-old.

So what if Allardyce does keep Sunderland in the premier league? Where do Sunderland go from here? I feel Allardyce has to stay at the club, which I think he will, for Sunderland to have a chance of finishing higher in the league next season and not be part of a relegation dog fight. He has shown several times over that giving him time and the ability to embed a formation and signings he wants in order to provide that stability Sunderland have wanted for several years now. I also feel it is important for Sunderland to stick with Allardyce if they were to be relegated, giving them the best chance of bouncing back to the premier league, if the worst was to happen.

 

Norwich City 0-3 Sunderland AFC

Sunderland are now within a point of safety after hammering relegation rivals Norwich at Carrow Road.

Fabio Borini placed his penalty into the net following an awful challenge from Andre Wisdom.

Borini put in an excellent cross for Jermain Defoe to score just after the break and Duncan Watmore finished the Canaries off in injury time to make it three.

Big Sam set up with the same side as last week despite losing 2-0 at home to Leicester.

 Passion: Fabio Borini Celebrates his goal in front of the Norwich crowd.

 Facts 


Norwich dominated the possession throughout the game but in this league you have to take your chances. Sunderland did exactly that with a brilliant penalty through Borini, a well worked counter attacking goal by Defoe and a goal at the death from Watmore who came on in his first game back after being sidelined with an ankle injury.

Analysis

Well…how wrong could I have been? In my preview for this game I demanded Sam Allardyce MUST drop Lee Cattermole after a poor performance last week against Leicester. I could not fault his performance from kick off through to the 90th minute. He and Jan Kirchoff broke up the play, creating counter attacks every time the Norwich fullbacks bombed forward.

 Man of the match: Lee Cattermole.

Every single one of the players stepped up to the plate today giving all our fans real hope of survival. The front three had to take there chances and they did exactly that converting all three shots on target into goals.

 

The victory is obviously massively important but the passion shown by every player today was outstanding.

It’s now important to build on this and get ourselves out of the relegation zone. After that victory I have real belief we can do it!

Ha’way the lads!!

A fully fit Sunderland side will look to pick up all three points against relegation rivals Norwich City at Carrow road tomorrow. (Kick off 12:45pm – BT Sport 1)

Sunderland play Norwich City at Carrow Road in the early kick off on Saturday Lunch time. Sunderland go into the game needing all three points being four points behind the home side. Norwich go into the game on the back of a defeat away to Crystal Palace and Sunderland after a frustrating home defeat to league toppers Leicester city.

defoe

Team News

Sunderland: Sam Allardyce revealed in his press conference yesterday that he now has a fully fit squad to choose from and that Duncan Watmore had been training all week and was available for selection.

Norwich: Timm Klose is the only absentee for the Canaries after twisting his knee in last weeks away defeat to Crystal Palace. Sebastian Bassong is expected to come into the heart of defence.

Likely Lineups

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Analysis

Allardyce has insisted on three CDM’s for the past few games and by now I really hope he realises it simply does not work. Yes we are more stable defensively over the 90 minutes but we have to have that balance in which we can defend and attack. Jan Kirchoff has been the standout since Newcastle away and he really has to stay in the side. Yann M’vila we all know is a class act on his day, although he hasn’t been brilliant recently. For me we have to drop Lee Cattermole and replace him with Sebastian Larsson. If i had it my way I would have us playing a flat 4-4-2 with Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini up front. As proved in the Leicester game Defoe upfront on his own leaves us with no outlet to hit and against big defenders he stands no chance. I do however understand Sam playing 4-3-3 as we seem to be more defensively resolute. Yes tomorrow is all about going there and hopefully getting three points but its massively important to not lose. If… and its a big if we go and win against Norwich we have games at home which we can pick up points, but even if we were to draw we have a game in hand against Everton which I see as winnable with them looking to be on the downfall.

Different potential lineups

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Possible Changes to both Personnel and Lineups?

Yes, I’ve dropped Vito Mannone… As much as I really do like the man, I think lately his kicking especially has been very poor. Last week at home to Leicester on several occasions Vito failed to be urgent in his kicking and time after time looked for Defoe to win headers against two of the biggest CB’s in the league. It may be harsh but I also think he could have done better for Jamie Vardy’s first goal. It would be a big statement dropping Vito but I feel as though Pickford could be the answer.

John Oshea possibly coming back in for Younes Kaboul also crossed my mind. I don’t think Kabouls been poor at all and again it would be harsh to drop him but I just feel he lacks that bit of composure to find a pass into one of our midfielders feet and tends to either just clear the ball into row Z or looks to go route one. Don’t get me wrong there is times when the ball just needs clearing but not every single time.

Larsson into the side is a change I have been saying should happen for weeks now. I think his experience, his engine and composure at this stage of the season is something we are lacking. He has shown before when Gus Poyet was in charge of the club he was a great part of our survival with the standout being the winning goal away to Manchester United.

Watmore to start or not to start? That has been a topic since yesterday afternoon I have seen being debated a lot over social media. I feel he can be an impact both of the bench and from kick off. His sheer will to run and run is the one thing that edges me towards him starting but again to drop Khazri or Borini would be a bold statement for Sam to make.

The final word

Whichever starting lineup or formation we start, we as fans really want maximum effort from every single one of these players on the pitch come 12:45 on Saturday. With a fully fit squad to choose from, this is the time for Allardyce to show his experience as a manager. However, there is only so much he can do. It is down to the players to get out there from the first whistle and want it most. So here is my message to the players. Go out there, win the game and keep Sunderland football club in this league. Haway the lads!

 

Sunderland AFC 0-2 Leicester City

Another Leicester City and Jamie Vardy masterclass leaves Sunderland four points adrift of safety

Vardy coolly slotted in the first against Sunderland, before outpacing the opposition defence and tucking home a second deep into injury time.

The hosts’ best chance fell to Jack Rodwell, who blazed over.

Sunderland remain 18th in the Premier League table, four points from safety.

Sam Allardyce: “I can’t accept how we conceded the first goal. We allowed Jamie Vardy to play to his strengths. One ball over the top… not coping with that was the reason why we lost today.

“Our most costly games were not today. A 0-0 draw would have been good for us. The costly ones were the last three, we should have won all three. That wouldn’t have seen so much pressure on ourselves and that is what told today.”

Analysis

You’ve really got to take your hats off to Leicester city. This time last year bottom of the league under Nigel Pearson with the championship looking likely and now flying high top of the league ten points clear under the ‘Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri. However, Spurs have a game in hand this afternoon against Manchester United.

They have the simple formula for winning football matches: Solid in defence, runners in midfield and goal scorers up front.

Leicester city N’golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Danny Drinkwater have been  the key players for me.

The thing for Sunderland fans is that there team has to try hard and if that means getting beat by the better side then so be it. Putting aside the team selection from Allardyce with three centre defensive midfielders and the fact we had several chances to score, the team seemed to just give up in the final 10 minutes of the game. Saturday’s game against Norwich is now officially must win and anything less would probably see us relegated alongside Newcastle and Aston Villa.

Sunderland 0-0 West Brom

Sunderland left frustrated once again as they fail to turn dominance into three points.

Despite a first clean sheet in 17 league games, the Black Cats took only a point, wasting two excellent chances to win the game in the closing minutes.

First Fabio Borini forced a sprawling save from Ben Foster, before the keeper denied Jermain Defoe from five yards.

Then the hosts had a goal disallowed in injury time when Dame N’Doye netted, but was correctly adjudged offside.

It could be a significant missed opportunity for Sunderland, who are now four points from safety after Norwich beat Newcastle.

West Brom – who came closest when an over hit Darren Fletcher free-kick tested Vito Mannone – remain 11th.

Sam Allardyce was pleased after the game but still frustrated at the fact his side could not turn their dominance with the ball into goals and most importantly three points.

“It was the best performance since I’ve been here. It was outstanding, particularly in the second half.

“We controlled the game, we played with composure and huge ability to break a very stubborn defensive unit. We richly deserved the victory, but just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Things you need to know:

  • Jan Kirchoff is still a German beauty
  • We finally kept a clean sheet…But we couldn’t score
  • West Brom are officially the most boring club in the league
  • James McClean is still horrible

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