The FourFourTwo Preview: Sunderland vs West Ham
Must win against must do better.
It’s been a strange week for Sunderland and West Ham. While Sam Allardyce and some of his players hit out at fans after being booed off against Hull on Wednesday, Gus Poyet declared that he wanted to “start the next game now” after an encouraging second-half display against high-flying Liverpool.
- Liverpool 2-1 S'land (Prem)
- Norwich 2-0 S'land (Prem)
- S'land 0-0 Palace (Prem)
- Hull 3-0 S'land (FAC)
- Man City 3-1 S'land (LC)
WEST HAM FORM
- West Ham 2-1 Hull (Prem)
- West Ham 0-2 Man Utd (Prem)
- Stoke 3-1 West Ham (Prem)
- Everton 1-0 West Ham (Prem)
- West Ham 3-1 So'ton (Prem)
Who’d have known the Hammers had won 2-1, while the Black Cats went down by the same scoreline at Anfield? Unfortunately for the Uruguayan, he’ll have to wait until the weekend’s last game to try to harness the momentum from Sunderland’s previous one.
At least they’ll know how their relegation rivals fared; while December’s 0-0 draw at Upton Park – generously critiqued as ‘uninspiring’ by one pundit – was described as ‘must win’ by both managers, this one surely is for Sunderland, given their next (and final) four away games are at Spurs, Man City, Chelsea and United.
Trouble is their home record this season is dire, consisting of just three league wins with none of those coming against the teams around them. That doesn’t bode well for the upcoming visits of Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea.
West Ham have won the same number of games away from Upton Park, but should be safe barring a miracle. Of more concern to their fans is the style of play this season, described as “one dimensional” by Allardyce’s former assistant Phil Brown this week. What Poyet would do for a one-dimensional win on Monday night.
Sunderland will have Fabio Borini available again after he was unavailable against parent club Liverpool in midweek. He may return alongside Connor Wickham or Jozy Altidore, with Poyet likely to revert to 4-4-2 having played with three centre-backs at Anfield.
Keeper Keiren Westwood and striker Steven Fletcher are long-term absentees. With Winston Reid mysteriously absent in midweek and James Collins going off against Hull with a worrying calf injury, the Hammers are down to the bare bones at centre-back. Matt Jarvis may return to provide some much-needed creativity.
Key battle: Ki Sung-Yueng vs Mark Noble
Sunderland were noticeably more threatening when the South Korean emerged from the bench in midweek, picking up the ball ‘in the hole’ and probing the Liverpool defence with his passing (as you can see from the graphic below). But with Sunderland likely to revert to 4-4-2, he’ll be expected to do more defensive work if he gets the nod against West Ham. Ki will be up against Noble, who is a box-to-box midfielder at his best. As he proved against Chelsea in a 0-0 draw earlier in the season, though, the local lad can play a more disciplined role in front of the defence away from home. Expect more of the latter on Monday night.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- W Ham 0-0 S'land (Prem, Dec 13)
- S'land 3-0 W Ham (Prem, Jan 13)
- W Ham 1-1 S'land (Prem, Sep 12)
- W Ham 0-3 S'land (Prem, May 11)
- S'land 1-0 W Ham (Prem, Dec 10)
Only last month, Poyet was tipped to replace Allardyce as West Ham boss at the end of the season. That's regardless of what the rest of the season holds, with the board hoping sexy football will fill the Olympic Stadium. It can’t have anything to do with his record against the Hammers, which reads: played three, lost two, drawn one, scored none, conceded seven. Indeed, when the Uruguayan’s Brighton lost 6-0 at Upton Park in the Championship in 2012, he admitted the Seagulls couldn’t cope with the confidence and creativity of Big Sam’s boys. Where did it all go wrong?
Facts and figures
- Sunderland are unbeaten in their last 5 meetings with West Ham.
- 7 of Sunderland’s last 10 home matches against middle-third teams have had fewer than 3 goals.
- 7 of West Ham’s last 10 trips to bottom-half teams have had fewer than 3 goals.
- West Ham have won only 1 of their last 15 away matches against bottom-half teams with 10 defeats.
- 9 of West Ham’s last 19 away matches have been goalless at half-time.
Best Bet: Draw @ 3.30
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Sunderland’s greater need to nick it. 1-0.