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Last time out, we beat Swansea City 3-1 at the Stadium of Light to secure us our 1st home win of the season, however, I’m concerned about the way my defence is playing. The game against Burnley pinpointed that as we threw away a 2-0 lead over the recently promoted side. This month, I’m looking for a much better performance from my defenders and perhaps our first League clean sheet! We have some very difficult games against the likes of Southampton, Stoke City and back to back games against Arsenal both in the league and Capital One cup.
Saturday 4th October 2014: Barclays Premier League
Sunderland 2 Stoke City 3
Mannone/ Van Aanholt/ Coates/ O’ Shea/ Byram/ Wickham/ Cattermole/ Rodwell (Larsson)/ Johnson/ Fletcher/ Borini (Alvarez)
Goals: Fletcher (64’) Johnson (75’) Sidwell (30’) Whelan (35’ 67’)
MOTM: Whelan (Stoke City)
Full credit to Stoke, Mark Hughes’s side were more ruthless and determined than us. They were everything that we weren’t. Organised, structured and disciplined. We did start off well, but once Sidwell fired a bullet from close range, we just fell apart. Luckily, the fans (and Ellis Short) are still in support of my management, but if things carry on, I fear we’ll be seeing “Sheriff Out” banners all over the city centre!
Tuesday 7th October 2014: Barclays Premier League
Southampton 1 Sunderland 1
Pantilimon/ Van Aanholt/ Vergini/ O’Shea/ Jones/ Wickham/Cattermole/ Bridcutt (Rodwell)/ Mavrias/ Fletcher/ Borini (Altidore)
Goals: Wanyama (63’) Altidore (90’)
MOTM: Mavrias (Sunderland)
Altidore to the rescue! The Saints are currently occupying the Europa League spot in the league so I knew this was going to be a tough game. The Koeman Brothers have been a revolution since taking over Southampton in the middle of the mass exodus during the summer. It was even Steven early on with both sides getting chances to take the lead, but once Wanyama scored, the feeling amongst out support was “here we go again” but it only seemed to inspire the players. We kept the ball well and took the game to Southampton. A pinpoint cross into the box from Mavrias met the head of Steven Fletcher, Frasier Foster parried the ball which landed at the feet of Jozy Altidore who levelled the game at 1-1 in the 90th minute. The fightback was exactly what I wanted to see from my players and it gives us confidence heading into two tough games against Arsenal.
Saturday 25th October 2014: Barclays Premier League
Sunderland 1 Arsenal 0
Mannone/ Van Aanholt/ Ake/ O’Shea/ Jones/ Johnson (Alvarez)/ Cattermole/ Rodwell/ Mavrias/ Fletcher/ Borini
Goals: Alvarez (87’)
MOTM: Ake (Sunderland)
What a game! We dominated Arsenal for the majority of the game and it paid off for us on the 87’ minute as substitute, Alvarez, cut inside the penalty arena to tap it past the Arsenal keeper for a well-deserved win. Once we scored that goal, Wenger played with 5 up front but we counted that by playing 5 at the back with Lee Cattermole taking up some more defensive responsibilities. Nathen Ake absolutely deserved his man of the match award! He got stuck in there with the tackles and headers and sticking to Ozil like glue making the World Cup winner look average. I’m proud of the lads, this level of performance is what I’m wanting my team to display in every game. It was all to do again however with yet another match against Arsenal.
Tuesday 28th October 2014: Capital One Cup
Arsenal 0 Sunderland 2
Mannone/ Van Aanholt/ Ake/ O’Shea/ Jones (Byram)/ Giaccherini/ Cattermole/ Buckley/ Larsson/ Alvarez/ Fletcher (Wickham)
Goals: Fletcher (3’) Alvarez (7’)
MOTM: Mannone (Sunderland)
Speechless. Can’t believe just how easy it was to beat Arsenal at the Emirates. It could have been more. Arsenal began to toughen up in the second half but we were defensively sound. Granted Arsenal were playing a weaken side but still they should have been more competitive than this. Not complaining though because that win sends us into the quarter finals of the Capital One cup.
Behind the scenes, Connor Wickham turned down a contract extension. The Sunderland Echo reported that Wickham was eyeing a move elsewhere with West Ham, Stoke City and local rivals, Newcastle United, interested in the player. Somehow this got leaked to the press but I wasn’t going to show our dirty laundry in the press:
“Connor has shown just how good of a player he is at this level in the game. He’s gone on loan to gain experience with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United and that experience has improved him as a player, which was demonstrated during our final run of games last season, and this season also. It’s a given that other clubs are interested in him because he’s a good player. We’re currently in negotiations with the player regarding a contract extension and also with Fletcher, O’Shea and Johnson. Once the deals have been agreed to, we’ll post a statement on the club’s official website.”
The follow up question was, “will Connor be sold in January?”
“No. He’s a Sunderland player and he’s staying put. If he wants to leave, then he’ll have to submit an official transfer request, but until then, Connor Wickham is not for sale.”
Player of the Month: Ricardo Alvarez
The Argentine Loanee is beginning to find his way in the Premier League. The way he cut through the Arsenal defence was a thing of beauty. Could very well be a contender for goal of the season!
The word I’ve been drilling into my players in training and team talks is “progress” and it’s paying off. If we never got that win against Arsenal or that last minute equaliser against Southampton, we would have been in the relegation places. Thankfully that isn’t the case. We need to continue this good run of leading into November as we have tricky games against Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea.