Sunderland v Swansea
3pm Saturday 22nd August
League standings: Sunderland 20th, Swansea 6th
Previous meeting: 1 – 1 – Saturday 7th February 2015 at the Liberty Stadium [match report]
If Sunderland fans thought that their season got off to a bad start against Leicester two weeks ago, the game against Norwich will have made clear just how big a task the club has on its hands this season in attempting to avoid relegation. Without going into the level of excruciating detail that messrs Carragher, Neville and Shearer have since Saturday’s game, Sunderland’s performance was quite simply a shambles. Advocaat stuck with the same defence that shipped four against Leicester, and he was punished by two soft Norwich goals before half-time. The Canaries added another in the second half but, much like the Leicester game, this really could and should have been 5 or 6.
The results in the past two games have sent Sunderland into a tailspin. Ex-players and fans are rounding on chairman Ellis Short. Questions are being asked why the much-rumoured transfer budget for the season has not materialised. To date, the club have a reported net spend of approximately £5million. Quite rightly, supporters are asking questions as to the aspiration of the chairman and a club which is usually tight lipped with fans is deafening in its silence.
It’s been reported this week that Sunderland have the eighth highest wage bill in the Premier League. The wage bill is crippling and it is almost certainly limiting the board and the manager in terms of maneuverability in the transfer market. The likes of Santiago Vergini, Valentin Roberge, Will Buckley, Emanuele Giaccherini, Liam Bridcutt, Charis Mavrias and Danny Graham have not been involved in many of Dick Advocaat’s matchday squads and Sunderland should be welcoming bids for all of the above. The wage bill looked to be too high last season, and that is before Sebastián Coates, Younès Kaboul, Adam Matthews and Yann M’Vila were added to the squad. Only Connor Wickham has left the club, although this did clear an estimated £60k a week from the wage bill. In addition to those players deemed surplus to requirements, you would imagine the club would also be open to offers for Steven Fletcher who’s contract expires in 12 months.
Seasons of poor dealings in the transfer market have pushed Sunderland into a game of stick or twist. If the club can’t afford to bring in new players without moving players on, do they go into the next four months with a squad which looks short of quality in almost every position? Alternatively, do the club throw good money after bad and recruit players in an attempt to avoid relegation? The people running the club really only have themselves to blame, but if the club do choose to throw caution to the wind then it can be surely be the last time that the board can get it wrong in terms of recruitment.
With everything that has gone on since the full time whistle against Norwich, It’s easy to forget there is a game on Saturday. In what should be Sunderland’s toughest game so far (there’s a thought to put the fear into even the most optimistic of supporters), Garry Monk’s Swansea side make the long journey up to the North East in good form. They have started the season strongly, with a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge and a 2-0 win against Newcastle last weekend. Another Summer of shrewd transfer activity has clubs like Sunderland once again looking on with envy. In the past 12 to 18 months, Swansea have brought in Jonjoe Shelvey, Wilfried Bony, Jefferson Montero, Bafétimbi Gomis and Łukasz Fabiański for a combined fee of only approximately £25million. They have added to the squad with the free transfer of André Ayew, which is already looking like a great bit of business with the Ghanaian grabbing a goal in both of his league appearances so far.
Swansea’s lineup shouldn’t spring too many surprises on Saturday. They line up in a solid 4-2-3-1 formation, with two midfielders sitting in front of the back four and four attacking players ahead of that. The front four of Montero, Sigurdsson, Ayew and Gomis can all score goals and you wouldn’t be surprised to see them threaten a Sunderland back four which looks void of any confidence.
With the pace and guile of Montero and Ayew coming in from wide positions, the team would do well to sit deep and for the wide midfielders to help the full backs out as much as possible (something which has been lacking in the two games so far). Swansea recorded 65% possession against Newcastle last weekend and you can expect them to dominate the ball on Saturday. The team will need to remain patient and make the most of the ball when we see it.
My team for Saturday:
Lets see what the Swansea fans have to say about Saturday’s game:
Your season has gotten off to a great start. How much of that is down to Garry Monk?
- Monk’s been fantastic. I feel like one of the things he’s done best has been to really focus on improving the training structure at the club. As a result, this is two seasons that we’ve started looking visibly fitter than other clubs. He’s also a club hero, he was our captain when we gained promotion to the premier league.
- Monk deserves a lot of credit for the changes he’s made. Rather than go for the big flashy changes like getting big names, he invested wisely in training, infrastructure, and personnel. While he deserves credit for these things, the board and Huw Jenkins also have been very positive in the fact that they’ve made sound decisions and seem to be working with Monk rather than against him.
On paper, your squad looks to have depth in almost every position. Which areas should the club be looking to strengthen before the transfer window closes?
- We don’t NEED one, but I’d feel more secure if we had a backup striker of Gomis’ quality. Although, if Gomis is hurt we could put Ayew up front without losing too much quality on the wings.
- Honestly we’re in a pretty good place at the moment in terms of depth. I worry a bit about what would happen if we were unlucky enough to lose both Williams and Fernandez to injury in terms of strong fullbacks, but the odds of that happening are low. While we do at the very least have Amat to back up one or the other, I don’t know that any of our other fullbacks are really up to the standard we’re used to seeing from those 3.
What are realistic expectations for Swansea this season?
- We want to be in the top ten at least. Looking at the other clubs, only the established European clubs seem to have an obvious advantage, and even then it’s not unrealistic for us to take a point or three from Tottenham, Everton, or Liverpool on our day. All that said, as long as we’re in the top flight, I’m happy.
- Realistically, if we can maintain the kind of form we’ve had these last two weeks, I’d be surprised if we didn’t finish top 8. I think many of us are hoping that we’ll manage to get a Europa League spot for the upcoming season to really keep the team progressing and pushing for more.
The last time both teams met, the game finished 1 – 1. What’s your prediction for the game?
- 3-0 to the Swans if we score first, maybe 1-1 if they do.
- Since we’re not playing at home, I’d say we’re probably looking at 2-0 Swans if we score first, 2-1 or 1-1 if we don’t.
Sunderland are one of the favourites for relegation. What are your thoughts on Sunderland’s chances this year, and what do you make of their squad?
- I don’t know how effective Advocaat’s team chat was last week, so I may be proven wrong, but as it stands it looks like the whole Sunderland squad is depressed. They’ve decided amongst themselves that they’re shite, and it’s become a self fulfilling prophecy. They go out and charge about in disarray until someone scores against them, and then they give up! For two seasons they were almost relegated only to have a miraculous run in the Spring. I don’t think that they can do it again. The players think that they belong in the championship, and it’s only a matter of time before they end up there.
- Honestly I haven’t watched Sunderland too much this last season. I’ve seen some of the results and highlights, but they don’t really offer a complete picture of what’s going on. With that said, their results have been really rough and the freshly promoted teams have looked surprisingly strong so far. Unless those 3 start to drop points, the only real hope I see for Sunderland is if teams like Newcastle keep doing poorly.
It sounds like Swansea fans expect goals on Saturday. With us conceding 7 goals so far against two teams expected to finish in the bottom half, who can blame them.
07.02.15 (Prem) Swansea 1 – 1 Sunderland
27.09.14 (Prem) Sunderland 0 – 0 Swansea
11.05.14 (Prem) Sunderland 1 – 3 Swansea
19.10.13 (Prem) Swansea 4 – 0 Sunderland
29.01.13 (Prem) Sunderland 0 – 0 Swansea