Sunderland's visit on Monday will be an interesting challenge, with Sam Allardyce yet to have the impact expected. Jack Pierce takes a look at what to expect for us.
What is Sunderland’s aim for this season?
If you’re a Sunderland fan, what is your hope before the first whistle is blown on the first day of the season?
Supporting The Mackems might just pip being a Villa fan in regard to have the most miserable existence among supporters of Premier League clubs. The annual ambling to March/April in and around the bottom three only for two or three wins to salvage their season must be pretty dull and depressing. Already this season, it looks like Sunderland will be looking for that familiar run of wins and points later in the season if they are to avoid dropping into The Championship for the first time since 2007.
After an awful start to the season, Dick Advocaat, only given permission to remain in post by his wife once she had been persuaded by a bouquet of flowers sent to her by Sunderland supporters (and a sizeable salary offer no doubt), decided enough was enough and handed in his resignation after not managing to guide his side to win any of their opening eight games of the season.
Enter Sam Allardyce.
Having left West Ham at the end of last season, Allardyce was instantly inserted as favourite for the job once Advocaat had made his intentions to leave clear. Allardyce, to his credit, has taken a job that many a manager might wish to avoid but could this be one challenge too far for a man renowned for his ability to keep unfancied sides in the top flight?
Early indications suggest that a change of manager hasn’t miraculously improved fortunes on the pitch aside from a thumping of their much loved rivals, Newcastle, influenced by the rather dodgy sending off of Fabricio Coloccini. As all new Sunderland managers do, Allardyce oversaw the defeat of Newcastle within his first few games but has failed to collect a single point from the other three games he has chewed gum ferociously through. Performances in one goal defeats to West Brom and Southampton have offered an improvement in the individual and team displays but the thumping at the hands of Everton at the start of the month highlighted the clear problems Allardyce faces if he is to guide his team to safety.
Defensively, they look a little short of quality. Put it this way, not one of John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Younes Kaboul or Sebastian Coates is better than Scott Dann, Damien Delaney or Brede Hangeland. Their recruitment policy has been shoddy and left Sunderland reliant upon four centre halves who, for whatever reason, aren’t of the quality to handle the rigours of Premier League football. Against Everton, Allardyce adopted a three man central defence and asked right back Billy Jones to play as the left sided centre half. They conceded six goals and that really is all you need to know about how that experiment went.
On paper, the midfielders that Sunderland have on their books, although far from the best in the league, could improve Sunderland’s fortunes. Yann M’Vila is one. A summer arrival on a season-long loan from Rubin Kazan, has been linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs since making his debut for Rennes in 2009. With 22 caps for France to his name but not one since 2012, M’Vila’s career has stalled in recent years and he will hope that a successful spell with Sunderland will put him back on the right path to reach the potential that so many believed he had in him. His performances in red and white thus far have been a bit hit and miss; when he’s looked half interested, his class has been there for all to see but when not in the ‘mood’, he might as well not be there. His wonderful free kick against Aston Villa was as good as he was bad in a game I saw him play when Sunderland were comfortably beaten by Bournemouth. Against a midfield of little top flight experience, M’Vila could’ve played a pivotal role and inspired his team to a far better performance than they offered but instead looked disinterested and appeared more of a hindrance than a help in that particular match.
Jack Rodwell is another whose current form is a world away from the levels that many anticipated he would offer when he emerged as the ‘next big thing’ at Everton. For further information about Rodwell, please search for articles about Scott Sinclair.
Up front, there is scope for goals; the problem is the consistency. Jermain Defoe is a proven Premier League goal scorer but now approaching the end of his career having already returned from a spell in MLS with Toronto which was supposedly the end of his career in England, is Defoe going to score the goals to keep Sunderland afloat this season? His well taken goal against Everton three weeks ago proved he still has the talent to trouble Premier League defences but he’ll most likely need to improve upon his current one in four record if he’s to be of major help.
Allardyce has been around long enough to know the difficulty of a job and you can bet your house on him negotiating a massive bonus, a la Tony Pulis, if he does succeed in keeping Sunderland up. We’ll have to wait and see if such an incentive is enough to inspire the sort of upturn in performances and results required.
Palace should run out comfortable winners on Monday and we are definitely a better side than we were last November but lest we forget the 3-1 victory Sunderland took with them from Selhurst Park last season.
I’m not up for that again!
What are your thoughts? Will we see a repeat of the last match against the Mackems at Selhurst? Comment below.