After a valuable point against Manchester United last time out, Stoke are now looking for their first win of the season against out of form Sunderland.
The Black Cats are going through just a bad a spell as we are, as both sides have yet to win in the league this season. The game is a must win for either side, as they look to get their season on track.
Ahead of tomorrow’s game, we spoke to Gav from Roker Report about Sunderland’s season so far, and who we really should look out for.
Firstly, we’ve both had a pretty miserable start to the season, as both sides have yet to win a game in the league. What’s your thoughts on your season so far? What is it that needs changing to get you results?
Our start to the season has been typically Sunderland. We haven’t won a league game before October in our last four seasons and the way we’ve began is starting to feel normal to us. And yet, it’s immensely frustrating that on every level we fail to improve year on year.
Injuries to key players have not helped us at all and the horrific way in which our pre-season was disrupted by the FA’s tapping up of our manager meant that our Summer transfer window was a complete disaster on just about every front – the key now is for David Moyes to find a way of playing that gives us some indication that things are going to change for the good.
Starting this weekend, we have to now play to our strengths and find a style which suits. Many suspect it might mean that we’ll play with a back five on Saturday and I’m inclined to agree that it’s the way forward for us, but I suppose time will tell. We aren’t winning games and Moyes needs to stumble across something that works, that much is plainly obvious.
Has there been any positives to take from the first 7 games?
Jermain Defoe has continued to score goals, whilst we’ve seen the emergence of some talented youngsters in Jordan Pickford and Lynden Gooch, both of whom featured in their national team senior squads this past week. Other than that, the positives have been immensely slim.
A win for either side on Saturday could kickstart their season, so which Sunderland player is most likely to lead you to victory against us?
If it’s going to be anyone it will be Jermain Defoe. He’s our sole goalscoring outlet and he doesn’t miss too many chances, though he did show that he’s human in our last game when he put wide an absolute sitter against West Brom just minutes in to the match. That said, if your defenders give him even a slight sniff at goal you can guarantee he’ll get a shot away, and looking at the state of your defending so far this season I’d hazard that its entirely likely he’ll get a chance or two.
As you’ve just mentioned, Jermaine Defoe is the main threat that Stoke need to watch, but other than him, who should Stoke be looking out for in your side?
Jordan Pickford. If you think Jack Butland is a promising talent, then you should meet this guy – they’re going to be rivals for the England number one shirt for many years I feel. Jordan has the best range of passing of any player in our team and as strange as that sounds, what with him being a goalkeeper, that makes him a massive asset to our side. He’s commanding, quick, a fantastic shot stopper and is still very young.
He got his first England call up this week, despite his experience in the Premier League being very limited. Its testament to just how good he is. Sadly for us, I don’t think he’ll be a Sunderland player after this season. He’s ready made for a team and manager like Manchester City and Pep Guardiola once he’s got enough experience under his belt.
Like yourselves, Stoke’s form has been pretty awful this season, but there have been signs of improvement recently. What are your thoughts on how Stoke have been doing so far?
I’ve been hugely underwhelmed by Stoke so far this season and, very rightly, questions should be being asked of Mark Hughes.
He’s got by far the most talented attacking line in the bottom half of the league at his disposal yet you are struggling to find the net, whilst Stoke are renowned historically for being ruthless defenders of the ball yet you’ve seen already on more than one occasion this season that once one goal goes in, you fold like a pack of cards.
If I were Mark Hughes, I’d be worried about my position should he fail to beat us this Saturday.
Which Stoke player do you think will be the biggest threat on Saturday?
Without a doubt it should be Wilfried Bony. I’ve seen him torture us far too many times for my liking over the years and big, mobile and strong forwards (Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku to name just two) have taken the piss out of us plenty of times already this season. I know he’s not got off the ground thus far but believe me, he’s the type of player out defenders just cannot play against and he’ll be pretty confident knowing just how well he’s done against us over recent times when playing for other clubs.
What are your predictions for the game?
This is perhaps the most difficult game I’ve had to predict so far this season – neither of us can defend and neither of us have been winning games, so its totally up in the air. We tend to do alright at your ground these days and with a sell-out away end in attendance I think we might be up for it, but having seen how bad we’ve looked at times this season I have absolutely no faith in our ability to keep a clean sheet. A 1-1 draw would probably be a sensible bet.
What are your aspirations for the end of the season?
Sadly, it is for us to yet again finish outside of the bottom three. I’m sick to death of constant relegation battles but it’s obvious that we’re headed for a season of struggle and making sure we reach 40 points should be our primary target. Having towed the line far too often over recent seasons, I unfortunately feel that this will be our year and we’ll be relegated, but I’ve seen us escape enough times to know that I should never write Sunderland off.
We’d like to thank Gav for taking the time to talk to us about tomorrow’s game. You can check him and Roker Report out on Twitter at @Gav1879 and @RokerReport!