At my last time of writing; a fortnight ago, I discussed how Sunderland’s January signings might have joined the club six months too late. However, after comfortably beating Manchester United at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland fans are in high spirits.
Once again it was the new signings that stood out for the Black Cats. Wahbi Khazri opened the scoring early in the game when his free-kick from long-range found its way past David de Gea. He then went on to assist the winner after another new signing, Lamine Koné, met Khazri’s cross. Although, the goal was cruelly taken away from Koné and put down as a De Gea own goal.
If it wasn’t for a great save from United’s goalkeeper; Sunderland’s third January signing on the field, Dame N’Doye, could also have found himself on the scoresheet.
This result leaves Sunderland just one point from safety, but they must keep up their current performance levels if they are to remain in the Premier League.
They must also work on the defensive side of their game. Sunderland haven’t kept a clean sheet since November 28, when they beat Stoke City 2-0 at the Stadium of Light. Although Sunderland do look stronger with the introduction of Koné, they still give away cheap goals.
The right-back position has been something of a problem for Sunderland. After searching for a left-back for numerous years, we finally got one in the form of Patrick van Aanholt. However since Phil Bardsley’s departure, the right-back slot is yet to be adequately replaced.
DeAndre Yedlin was reintroduced to the team against Man Utd and he put in a decent performance. He looks a lot more comfortable than Billy Jones and he can actually get forward. It was quite refreshing to see the young American take on players and get the ball in the box.
Anthony Martial’s goal was a fine example of a cheap goal to give away. Vito Mannone should have tipped the ball around the post, but instead chose to parry it a few yards to his side allowing Martial to dink the ball over the ‘keeper.
I firmly hold the opinion of giving Jordan Pickford a chance between the sticks. Mannone doesn’t fill Sunderland fans with confidence as he himself looks to be panicking most of the time. It is as if us fans are just waiting for an error to come, such as the one versus Manchester City during the great escape season. Then again, can you really afford to bring in a young inexperienced keeper into a relegation battle?
Next up is West Ham United away from home and it would be a major ask to demand a win from this game, but I think it is imperative we get a point. With Newcastle United not playing this weekend due to Man City’s Capital One Cup final and Norwich City apparently in free fall, a point would see us move out of the relegation zone on goal difference and pile the pressure on our relegation rivals.
After that we have Crystal Palace at home, which is definitely a must-win. It was like old times at the Stadium of Light against United. The place was rocking and the fans were in fine voice. If that can be recreated it will give the players more confidence and hopefully they can secure the win.