Sunderland hosts West Ham for Game 16By: Angela Poe | December 3rd, 2010
Usually about this time in the Premier League season injuries begin to plague every club due to extra cup games, international appearances and illness as the temperatures drop across the country. Snow has already cancelled one game this weekend and we anticipate postponements in the future, however our game this week will go on, as of now. So let’s take a look at what to expect for this week’s clash at the Stadium of Light:
First, Avram Grant has gone on record to say that following Jonathan Spector’s display at the recent 4-nil slaughtering of Manchester United in Upton Park he’s earned his place in the midfield. Scott Parker has taken the time to recover from his chest infection and he will be coming as well, so we’ll have to see if he’ll line them up side by side. Seeing as how Grant’s 4-4-2 formation seems to be the one most recently selected, the front two look to be Piquionne and Cole although I would PREFER to go with the Obinna/Cole front two from the cup game. They seemed to work well together with Vic as the conduit between the attacking midfielder (Parker or Spector) and Cole or the winger (in our case LBM) and Cole. Vic’s not afraid to challenge and push through a defender and we need that kind of forward-moving player up front. Also, Vic’s great on the counter, but not if he’s stuck too wide out on the wing.
The issue for me is, and I cannot believe I’m saying this, we have to select the best back four from our choices. Currently we have Upson, Tomkins, Gabbidon, Jacobsen, and Ben Haim all fit which is a great bunch to choose from when they are all on form. For me I’d like to have Jacobsen return at RB, Tomkins and Upson in the middle and Ben Haim on the left. While I love Gabsey, lately he’s been giving away free kicks and penalties that have been near game-changers for us. We cannot afford to put him up against Bent and Welbeck and risk him making those same mistakes. Also, Darren Bent is ENORMOUS. If he’s facing someone small, he’s going to run right through him — whereas a more imposing figure like Ben Haim will hopefully be just the assistance Upson and Tonka need to make sure that left side is covered.
Valon Behrami is fit as well and if we’re talking about Behrami or Barrera I would pick Behrami every time. At least for all his headless-chicken running-about he manages to slip a goal in here and there. Barrera has yet to make his mark and if we can I’d like to get rid of him as soon as possible. Lastly, I think LBM deserves a chance to show he can behave during a Premier League game. LBM is just the troublemaker we need to keep the Black Cats midfield busy so they cannot thread a pass to their capable strikers.
Of course, Robert Green will be in goal and given our record against Sunderland (we have only lost 1 in the last 11 meetings) and in the last seven games with them Green has kept a clean sheet. We have conceded more headers than ANY other Premier League team in the top flight (a high 35% of the goals we have let by have been headers!), so his challenge will be to make sure the towering 5′ 11” Bent doesn’t want to take that percentage up a notch.
On the scoring side, Sunderland are without their Titus Bramble/Michael Turner CBs so they won’t be feeling as confident in the box as usual, but Mensah is no slouch. Mensah is nursing that injury still and after a short start recently he’ll be soft at least until his first 50/50. They are also likely to line-up 4-4-2, however Bruce’s side will also be without Fraizer Campbell and possibly David Meyler. Gyan is available, but it’s not probably he’ll start. I would say the biggest concerns facing the Hammers are the often dangerous and sneaky challenges of Cattermole and retaining the lead once we get it as Sunderland have sometimes been a 2nd half or even added-time-scoring club.
So far we’ve been the only club to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this year (for the cup game) and we have not won a single away game since the OPENER of last season. I’m tired of writing that crummy statistic, so let’s do what we’ve already done once this year THIS time taking 3 points back to East London. The snow seems to be our good luck charm, and goodness knows up north they have a LOT of it!