Not much has changed since my last time of writing. There is just one point separating the three teams who are battling it out for Premier League survival and it is almost certain that it will go down to the final day.
People keep saying “it’s in our hands”, but is it really? Norwich look most likely to go but also have a game in hand like ourselves, however Newcastle have picked up form over the last few weeks and in my eyes would be the most likely to avoid the drop.
Next up they have Aston Villa away, which you would have to assume would be three points, and with Spurs having nothing to play for on the last game of the season (plus half of their team seemingly banned), I can see Newcastle getting at least a point at home. This means Sunderland have to get at least five points from the last three games.
The only way I see it in our favour is that we have been in this position before and we know what we need to do. Next up is Chelsea at home and the players have been recalling the win away at Stamford Bridge in 2014, which sent us on our way to accomplishing the Great Escape. The Stadium of Light is set to be packed out and hopefully the lads can at least manage a point to keep the confidence flowing.
Jermain Defoe’s last minute penalty away to Stoke last week was crucial in keeping our momentum going. If we had lost that game, I feel our heads would have dropped coming into the Chelsea game and ultimately that is not what you need at this time of the season.
Big Sam also can’t afford to make any poor “tactical” substitutions in the remaining three games. The introduction of Dame N’Doye last weekend did not go down well with the Sunderland fans. The man is stealing a living and has very little footballing ability, especially when he is deployed as a winger. You want to make subs that will inspire the supporters, not ones that fill you with very little hope whatsoever. I know that can be hard, as our bench tends to possess very little quality or fill you with any excitement whatsoever, but doing things like bringing John O’Shea on to see out the last 10 minutes of a game is baffling. Every time he comes on it tends to go wrong.
Defoe could well be the difference in the remaining three games as he is always a threat in front of goal, but we do have to realise that allowing Vito Mannone to hoof the ball miles into the sky, looking for the former England international to win a header against a defender twice his size, is not playing to his strengths. His link-up play with Fabio Borini and Wahbi Khazri will also be key. Khazri has been impressive so far but can often go missing in games, while Borini on the other hand needs to up his game; we have rarely seen the form he produced when on loan under Gus Poyet, since he signed permanently.
Hopefully, at my next time of writing, I will be overjoyed that Sunderland have once again managed to stay in the Premier League and I can pretend I’m looking forward to the next campaign, despite it most likely being more of the same.