Sunderland at the Stadium of Quiet on Saturday evening. Is it fair that we face two away games in a week and the Mackems two at home? Probably not. Everton are away to the filthy gooners at the weekend having played at Old Trafford on Wednesday so things could be worse. There’s probably a time at some point during the season when we play twice at home in a week, I’d look it up but I’m busy trying to think of stuff to put into a match preview.
If you’re a paid journalist, the thing about sticking your knife/pen/ipad into a manager is that you know you’re going to be right. As someone famously said, all managers face one certainty the moment they’re appointed – that they’ll get the sack. AVB’s pride and naivety coupled with the long memories of the press and, if you’re still with me, the media driven news culture we live in mean that it’s inevitable that the likes of Neil Ashton and other writers will have their day…. which is my roundabout way of saying that despite this week’s decent points haul, Villas-Boas isn’t out of the woods yet. Oh no.
Sunderland’s hiring of Paolo Di Canio as manager is one of the more bizarre (and distasteful) decisions in English football in recent years, getting rid of him as early as they did was a much wiser move. Gus Poyet has his eccentricities but they are mild compared to the Italian’s. Progress under the new regime has been slow but the travails of Fulham and the stuttering performances of Norwich, Cardiff, Stoke and the Hamsters mean that all is far from lost.
Talking of stuttering performances, Wednesday night’s win at Craven Cottage was hardly a vintage one. Arguably it was Hugo who earned us the win with a series of reflex saves from Berbatov mostly. One hopes some tactical and selection lessons have been learned if nothing else. The middle of the field was a desert in creativity terms, a situation improved if not resolved by the introduction of Holtby at halftime. The problems created by playing the wingers on the wrong flanks were solved by, erm the wingers swapping back. Vertonghen’s spell at left back may be brought to an unfortunate close by an injured ankle. Kyle Naughton will probably replace. Trying to predict the side is a pretty fruitless task these days but Defoe and Holtby probably did enough to get starts this time round. Dembele was missed and should return if fit. What combination of Sandro, Lamela, Paulinho, Capoue, Lennon and Chadli gets the nod is anyone’s guess.
The ‘project’ needs time. Read the media and time is what it’s not going to get, unless results allow it. I think this’ll be a tough game, any side that scores three against Chelsea is more than capable of notching against a currently error prone defence. We need to view possession with the respect it deserves and do our best to find Defoe a bit of space. If not, there’s always the speculative pot shot, that seems to be working well at the moment.
Lee Mason is down to referee. COYS.
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