Ask the Opposition

Ask the Opposition 59: Sunderland (with Chris Thompson)

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Sunderland supporters arrive at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Sunderland and Southampton at Stadium of Light on February 11, 2017 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Ten goals scored in two games pretty much says it all about Manchester City at the moment. Confidence is high, goals are flowing and it finally seems that things have really started to click under Pep.

That’s not to say that things have been perfect though as defensive frailties are still an issue and one that Sunderland will certainly look to exploit at the weekend.

We spoke to Sunderland fan Chris Thompson, who runs Sunderland fan site A Love Supreme, to get his opinions on Sunderland, Denayer and the upcoming fixture.

Hi Chris, thanks for talking to us. Unfortunately I have to start by asking about your season so far which has led you to bottom of the table, what are your thoughts?

No thoughts, really, it’s pretty standard around these parts. We do this thing where we play embarrassingly terrible for most of the season then pull a miraculous string of results out of our arse around April time. We’re actually the best team in the league, we just can’t be arsed.

In seriousness though, it’s pretty grim. It’s been a deflating season from the start – losing our manager and not having a good summer window, followed by an even less inspiring January. If it wasn’t for free transfers, we’d be goosed.

When David Moyes was appointed Sunderland manager at the start of the season, I for one thought it was a step in the right direction for the club. Do you still think he is the right man for the job?

I’m in agreement in that the appointment seemed a sensible one at the time. Our chairman admitted he’d had his eye on Moyes for a while and was glad to finally get his man. The problem with Moyes is that he isn’t a manager who gets you terribly excited to go and see your team play.

His blunt realism can often come across as negative, and when you’re a club with a sub-par squad and barely enough cash to keep the heating on, you need someone with a bit of energy to keep your spirits up. Moyes has a worse record at SAFC than other managers who have been shown the door, so if it wasn’t for our dire financial situation and the lack of other options, he’d probably already have pocketed his severance pay.

Sunderland have been in similar relegation battles in recent years and against all odds you’ve produced some very strong performances towards the end of the season to keep you up. Do you think the current players are capable of this ‘never say die’ mentality? Will you stay up?

Unfortunately this season it’s not so much about the players’ attitudes as it is about the amount of injuries and quality of signings we’ve made. In past seasons we have always had the talent but never the method and drive to engineer results throughout the season, whereas I’d argue it’s the exact opposite this time around. I don’t think we’re lazy or demotivated, we’re just not really strong enough.

We have players due to return from injury soon, star man Lee Cattermole being one of them, and so only then will we really be able to determine what chance we have of beating the drop again.

Moyes seems to have a habit of linking up with players from previous clubs with a number of the current Sunderland squad having played under him before. Are there any that stand out as key performers for you at the moment?

None of Moyes’ signings have really made that much of a difference, former players or not. You could attribute that to lack of financial support, but then we spent around £14m on Didier Ndong, our record signing, and he has nowhere near maxed out his potential (here’s hoping the lad does have potential).

The only player I could really call a key performer is Jermain Defoe, he is absolutely vital; statistically, spiritually, aesthetically. If it wasn’t for Defoe, we wouldn’t even have anyone to use in the club’s marketing materials, as he’s the only player worth showcasing!

I’m sure City fans will want to hear a bit about loanee Jason Denayer. Can you tell us about him and how he’s fared playing Premier League football so far this season?

Denayer debuted for us at right back and looked terrible, Spurs’ Son had his life all game. He was then positioned just in front of the back four, where he was brilliant. I’d argue our best defensive performances of the season have been with him in the holding role. I’m a big fan.

He’s composed on the ball and is well disciplined in his positioning. He hasn’t offered much going forward, but I think in a team as talented as City’s that wouldn’t be much of a problem. He’s decent at centre back but I much prefer him perched in front of the defence. A versatile player, for sure. Very handy to have on the subs bench as he can play pretty much anywhere across the back line. I can see him playing in Europe for City next season.

On to the game now. Jermain Defoe has proved to be such a pivotal player for the Black Cats since his arrival on Wearside, but who else would you highlight as key players for City fans to watch out for?

Nah, don’t worry about anyone else, no point. Although if Januzaj has had enough fizzy pop before the match he might fancy stepping up his game, especially given his parent club. I imagine City fans will boo Adnan, so just be wary that ever so occasionally he is able to do something special. It’s usually against City that our players pull shock performances out, so you never know.

Finally, can we please have you predicted starting line-up and what you think the final score will be?

With City loanee Jason Denayer ineligible, I imagine it will be as follows, provided we continue playing 5 at the back.

Pickford,

Jones, Kone, Djilobodji, O’Shea, Oviedo,

Ndong, Gibson, Larsson

Defoe, Januzaj

Difficult to say, as Moyes does like to tinker.

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