Sunderland v City: Opposition View
- 02 February 2016 09:35
- Posted by @SAFCsource
Sunderland blogger Andy Tomlinson (@SAFCsource) shares his thoughts on tonight's meeting at the Stadium of Light.
For more from Andy, visit rokerreport.
How are you feeling ahead of the game?
I'm actually feeling quite relaxed about this game, despite the quality of the opponents. We managed to get 7 points from three of the teams around us in recent weeks and that has taken the pressure off for this and our next two games (Liverpool (a) and Man Utd (h)) somewhat. Although results elsewhere mean we could probably do with four points at least from those three games.
January saw an upturn in Sunderland's results. Why do you think that is?
It was mainly down to an easier set of fixtures. In December we had five fixtures, three of those were away to Arsenal, Chelsea under new management and Manchester City. We lost 1-0 in both of our home games of the month, against a then in-form Watford and then Liverpool. Those results put the pressure on for the home game against Aston Villa but we managed to grind out a victory and that gave us a much needed boost of confidence.
Do you believe Sunderland can avoid the drop?
In a word: Yes. To expand on that, a lot will depend on Jermain Defoe continuing to score the goals and how well our new signings fare, particularly Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri. Our central defence is rather immobile, we are likely to be relying on Kone to change that. While Khazri will have less pressure on him, due to the presence of Jeremain Lens, Adam Johnson, Fabio Borini and Duncan Watmore, we still forked out a lot of money (around £9m) on one of the best performing players in Ligue 1. We need them both to hit the ground running.
We also have a kinder fixture list until the end of the season, once the next three games are out of the way, we just have to make sure we don't get cut too far adrift until then.
Are you happy with the Club's business in the transfer window?
Not really. I'm happy with the signings of Kone and Khazri, who both have the potential to immediately improve us but with the key word being 'potential'.
Jan Kirchhoff looks more of a project who the club hope can be a hit later on this season and into next, which isn't ideal in our position. Dame N'Doye will be a solid enough addition as striker cover. Steve Harper will be a non-entity as third choice.
A couple of quality players with Premier League experience who could hit the ground running, in addition to those already signed, would have been ideal.
Who is your key player and why?
Yann M'Vila (pictured below), he has been a revelation in midfield since his arrival on loan from Rubin Kazan. He has easily been our best player this season, even taking into account Defoe's goalscoring form. If the club manage to avoid relegation, making his loan deal permanent should be the absolute number one priority.
How do you expect the Black Cats to line-up? Who will play and in what formation?
That's actually a difficult question to answer. We are just as likely to play 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or 3-5-2. We were dreadful defensively when Kirchhoff came on for his debut against Tottenham and the team switched to three at the back, so assuming Kone makes his debut I am going to guess that Sam Allardyce will not make the same mistake twice.
So I will say we will play 4-2-3-1 and our line-up will look something like; Vito Mannone; Billy Jones, John O'Shea, Lamine Kone, Patrick van Aanholt; Lee Cattermole, Yann M'Vila; Adam Johnson, Wahbi Khazri, Fabio Borini; Jeremain Defoe.
Sam Allardyce said he feels stopping Sergio Aguero is the priority for the Black Cats. Would you agree?
No, that would be David Silva. As good as Aguero is, he's the type of player who can pop up with a bit of magic to win a game at any moment, no matter how closely he is being marked. Stopping David Silva from dictating play around the edge of our own box is likely to be a bigger factor on whether we can get something from the game.
Where do you think other key battles will take place on the pitch?
French Football Weekly did a profile of Lamine Kone, explaining how he was quick enough to cover the fastest strikers in Ligue 1, well that is about to be tested to the full by Sergio Aguero. At the other end of the pitch, our chances are likely to be few and far between, so Defoe will have to be at his best against City's central defence to make sure he gets on the end of anything we may create.
What are your views on City as a club? Is your opinion shared by the majority of Sunderland fans?
I'd say the majority of Sunderland fans would agree with me when I say we quite like City as a club. Both clubs have had similar ups and downs over the years and have passionate, loyal supporters that weren't given anything close to the rewards they deserved. Obviously that changed for City in the last few years, hopefully we can follow suit at some point in the future!
Dare to cast a score prediction?
We had a bizarrely good record for a few seasons against City, that seems to have fallen by the wayside of late but I fancy us to grind our way to a point. I'll go for 1-1.