The FourFourTwo Preview: Sunderland vs Swansea
Another test of Sunderland fans’ patience. They just want a win, any win, because, well, it’s been a while.
- S’land 1-2 Stoke (LC)
- Burnley 0-0 S’land (Prem)
- S’land 2-2 Spurs (Prem)
- QPR 1-0 S’land (Prem)
- Birmingham 0-3 S’land (LC)
- Swansea 3-0 Everton (LC)
- Swansea 0-1 So’ton (Prem)
- Chelsea 4-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 WBA (Prem)
- Swansea 1-0 Rotherham (LC)
The Stadium of Light, May 7. That was the last time Sunderland won a Premier League game. Which is a long time. Sure, that includes the summer break, but after five games of the new campaign the Black Cats are still one of only three teams – step forward Burnley and Tyne rivals Newcastle – that are yet to win.
Hell, Sunderland even lost to QPR, a team who are both terrible and the only side defeated by Manchester United thus far. Even Black Cats boss Gus Poyet is getting antsy. “I was expecting more than that,” huffed the Uruguayan. “Everything we planned didn’t really go as we would like. We played OK but that’s not enough in the Premier League.” Not even former Chelsea left-back Patrick van Aanholt’s late long-range effort onto the post could overcome the feeling that Sunderland are a side that lacks a goal threat.
Connor Wickham, the protagonist of last season’s great escape, is goalless in 2014/15, as is Steven Fletcher, whose excellent early start at the Stadium of Light is now two years old. Adam Johnson, Emanuele Giaccherini and Seb Larsson have quality – and have shown it in patches – but have been inconsistent, while Jordi Gomez has done little to assuage doubts that he’s a very good Championship player who struggles with the Premier League. That said, Jozy Altidore did score his first goal in 30 games in the League Cup this week, so hope springs eternal.
After starting the league campaign with three successive wins, Swansea have now lost their last two against the Premier League’s own top two: Chelsea and Southampton. Yet before Wilfried Bony’s 39th-minute red card last weekend, the Jacks had completed 250 passes to Southampton’s 128 and created 5 chances to the Saints’ 1. Post-dismissal, Southampton mustered 10 shots at goal.
That game, then, can be taken in isolation for Garry Monk’s men. Keeping 11 men on the pitch must be a priority, as will getting Bafetimbi Gomis to transfer his Football Manager research of Swansea into meaningful performances in the real world. With Gylfi Sigurdsson behind the Frenchman, and confidence high after a 3-0 League Cup victory over Everton, you’d make the Welsh side favourites, even away from home.
Wickham and Fletcher both face late tests on back and calf injuries, which means Altidore could get a chance after his midweek strike. Italian schemer Giaccherini is also carrying a knock.
For Swansea, Leon Britton, Jordi Amat and Dwight Tiendalli are all absent. Bony's back from suspension.
Key battle: Lee Cattermole vs Gylfi Sigurdsson
You couldn’t wish to find two more different midfielders. All bustling intent with shorts pulled Simon Cowell-high, Cattermole is an irritant who seems to have curbed a fiery instinct that began when he was famously born on a yellow card. Though last weekend’s 0-0 draw was relatively drab, the England hopeful was tidy enough at the base of Poyet’s midfield and must repeat the trick against Icelandic playmaker Sigurdsson.
A goal and 4 assists is an impressive early-season haul since the 25-year-old’s return from Tottenham, and before the sending off he was looking dangerous. Given the freedom to play as a genuine No.10, Sigurdsson holds the game’s destiny in his hands.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- S'land 1-3 Swans (PL, May 14)
- Swans 4-0 S'land (PL, Oct 13)
- S'land 0-0 Swans (PL, Jan 13)
- Swans 2-2 S'land (PL, Sep 12)
- S'land 2-0 Swans (PL, Jan 12)
Both still relative managerial novices at Premier League level, Poyet and Monk began the season in similar positions – essentially newbies who emerged from 2013/14 marginally in credit after taking over when the chips were down. A long-established playing style in south Wales has helped Monk’s evolution from reserve centre-back to manager, while Poyet’s necessary revolution is showing signs of the need to bed in. The former, meanwhile, has claimed he expects to see England manager Roy Hodgson return to the Liberty Stadium to check up on his Swans stars despite defeat to Southampton.
Facts and figures
- Swansea have won just 8 corners in 5 league games this season.
- Gylfi Sigurdsson has assisted 4 Premier League goals this season; he has never recorded more than 4 in a single campaign in England.
- Along with Liverpool, Swansea are 1 of 2 teams yet to draw this season. Sunderland have drawn a league-high 4 times this term.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Tight and cagy affair, this. 0-1.