The FourFourTwo Preview: Sunderland vs Swansea
Crack open the bubbly, we’re safe!
Swansea at home to secure your Premier League survival, sir? Not so long ago, Gus Poyet would have bitten your hand off for such an offer, but the Sunderland boss will be relieved to have completed his great escape with a game to spare. Following Garry Monk’s appointment as permanent manager, the Swans are now far more dangerous: a team playing for their futures.
- S'land 2-0 WBA (Prem)
- Man Utd 0-1 S'land (Prem)
- S'land 4-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-2 S'land (Prem)
- Man City 2-2 S'land (Prem)
- Swansea 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Swansea 4-1 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 0-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Hull 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
The Jacks have been as frustratingly inconsistent under their former captain, who took temporary charge in February, as they were under previous incumbent Michael Laudrup, failing to win, lose or draw more than two games in a row all season. They did win their last away game at Newcastle, however, their first victory on the road since November.
Sunderland, meanwhile, have won their last four games, but the Stadium of Light has hardly been a fortress, just five of their 10 victories this season coming on Wearside.
Survival for both does at least mean they can play with freedom rather than fear, but looking beyond this weekend, the managers are faced with very similar dilemmas.
Will loanees Fabio Borini and Jonathan de Guzman – two of the respective teams’ better performers – still be around in August?
Can they get last season’s top scorers Steven Fletcher and Michu fit and firing again? Will Ki Sung-Yueng make his loan move to Sunderland permanent or return to South Wales after the World Cup? An interesting summer lies ahead…
Neither manager has any fresh injury concerns, with Keiren Westwood and Carlos Cueller joining Fletcher and Ki on the Black Cats’ treatment table. Chico Flores and Angel Rangel are long-term absentees for Swansea alongside fellows Spaniard Michu.
It will be interesting to see whether World Cup hopefuls such as Michel Vorm, Wilfried Bony, De Guzman, Emanuele Giaccherini, Jozy Altidore and even Connor Wickham (see below) are shaping up ahead of potentially the biggest summers of their lives. If their managers don’t decide to give them a rest, that is.
Key battle: Wickham vs Williams
Wickham’s resurgence has been startling, given he returned to Sunderland from a goalless loan spell at Leeds. With pace, strength and an eye for goal in his locker, the young Englishman should be a handful for anybody when he’s on song. Against Cardiff, he was unstoppable, scoring twice, winning a penalty and assisting another goal. Yet he does plenty of work away from the penalty box too. Matching Wickham for mobility will be key to Williams’ success. The Swansea captain loves the physical stuff, but isn’t the tallest for a centre-back. As you can see from the Swans’ last away win at Newcastle, he does his fair share of headers, something Sunderland might look to exploit either through Wickham, who has two inches on the Welshman.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Swans 4-0 S'land (Prem, Oct 13)
- S'land 4-0 Swans (Prem, Jan 13)
- Swans 2-2 S'land (Prem, Sep 12)
- S'land 1-3 Swans (Prem, Jan 12)
- Swans 0-0 S'land (Prem, Aug 11)
Two gaffers who share purist principles will be able to enjoy a game at last. Monk has come through a three-month audition for the manager’s job, Swansea’s board hoping his lack of profile won’t prevent them from luring top talent to Wales. Those stars who remain have clearly been impressed by what they see. Poyet’s first game in charge of Sunderland was a 4-0 drubbing at the Liberty in October, but the transformation since those dark days has been nothing short of spectacular, although it actually took until six weeks ago – when the Uruguayan looked on the verge of quitting – to kick in.
If he can fill the Stadium of Light and get the fans onside, mid-table rather than 17th will be the aim next term.
Facts and figures
- Sunderland have won 4 consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since December 2000.
- Swansea have kept just 1 clean sheet in their last 12 matches.
- 14 of Swansea’s last 18 trips to bottom-half teams have had fewer than 3 goals.
- Sunderland have drawn 9 of their last 20 home games against bottom-half sides.
Gloves off, goals galore. 3-3.