I was deliberately waiting until Newcastle’s game with Manchester City on Tuesday before writing this. It may seem like I am obsessed with Newcastle and I do apologise for that on a Sunderland-related website but as they are one of our competitors for that trophy of seventeenth, we need to keep a firm eye on them as well as Norwich City.
I’ll get this out of the way first – their 1-1 draw with City is a good point for them but Sunderland are now the bookmakers most likely team to avoid relegation. I don’t buy that for one second because even a week ago Norwich were probably favourites to stay up. They definitely were after they beat Newcastle at Carrow Road.
I hate constantly changing my opinion because I feel it’s easy to go with the crowd so to speak. That’s not a dig at anybody by the way, as everyone has the right to their own opinion. My point is anything can happen and change as quickly as Sunderland changing managers.
That was exactly whenever I was asked before the game on Saturday I didn’t definitely say if Sunderland were going down or staying up. My answer was always the same: "ask me after the Norwich game." If we lost to Norwich on Saturday then I would have thought we were going down with Newcastle and Aston Villa. Even with a game in hand, it’s highly unlikely we were going to recover seven points.
If we drew with Norwich I would sit on the fence because while they would have an extra four points, I could have seen Sunderland overturning that purely because of the fixtures Norwich have. Thankfully, that is all hypothetical as we won.
The only bad thing from beating Norwich is that presents hope to Newcastle.
Norwich I think will go down at this point in time although that could easily change again. Let’s remember they are still outside of the bottom three. But I just think IF Tim Klose is out for the rest of the season then they could really struggle. Psychologically losing that four-point gap on Sunderland will be a blow too especially given that, from their point of view, it could have been seven points and it’s now cut down to one point. Their remaining fixtures are Arsenal (away), Manchester United (home), Watford (home) and Everton (away).
Immediately I look at their home game with Watford and I think they will win that one simply because they need to. Arsenal and Man Utd are fighting for top four and Everton at Goodison Park isn’t the kindest fixture for them.
Newcastle’s remaining games are Liverpool (away), Crystal Palace (home), Aston Villa (away) and Tottenham (home). I think they will beat Palace at home even though I’d love Alan Pardew to beat them and help send them down. Aston Villa, based on this season, should be three points for them. Villa are awful at home but Newcastle are awful away so something has got to give there. I can see that one ending a draw even though I’d love Villa to beat Newcastle and take them down to the Championship with them.
We need the title race to go to the final day if possible so that Tottenham have something to play for which increases their chances of beating Newcastle.
Sunderland’s remaining games are Arsenal (home), Stoke City (away), Chelsea (home), Everton (home) and finally Watford (away). Like I mentioned before, Arsenal are fighting for top four and if I’m being totally honest, I don’t see us getting anything on Sunday but I’d love to be wrong. Can I ask Arsene Wenger for a huge favour – can Arsenal lose to Sunderland and then thrash or at least just beat Norwich?
In all seriousness, I was reading Gav’s piece earlier this week about whether Arsenal is a must-win or must-not lose. For me, it’s the latter although a win would be huge for Sunderland.
We haven’t beaten Arsenal at home in the Premier League since 2009 and the last time we beat them in all competitions was 2012 in the F.A. Cup. Inevitably my mood going into the game will depend on what happens at Anfield on Saturday but, assuming Liverpool win on Saturday, a draw will take Sunderland out of the bottom three.
After Arsenal, our last four games are against teams wh don’t really have anything to play for, although I think we will be lucky to get anything against Chelsea. Yes they’re just letting their season run down by the looks of it but they are still last season’s champions. They’ve had a terrible season but make no mistake that will be a hard match.
The other three are where our potential points will come from for me. Assuming Newcastle beat Crystal Palace & Aston Villa while losing to Liverpool & Tottenham and that Norwich beat Watford but lose the other three games, Sunderland would need five points to stay up. Five points out of Stoke, Everton & Watford is realistic for me. Everton and Watford could be in the F.A. Cup final which could work in our favour although Norwich play both teams as well.
Stoke were poor against Tottenham but there’s a major difference in quality but them and us. One thing that does help is Jack Butland being out. Pepper their goal and silence the home crowd. We can get a good result there.
While being realistic at the same time, my ideal scenario is staying up mathematically after we’ve played Everton at home so that all the home fans can witness it and celebrate it together.
But this is Sunderland. We never do things the easy way. Either way the important thing is finish above both Norwich and Newcastle.