I’ve spent the last week thinking about life next season. About who might leave come season’s end, and who might stay; about whether we’ll be able to rectify our finances, or if we’ll be resigned to long-term fiscal ruin. It’s a future full of questions with little in the way of remedy especially with that deafening silence emanating from the club’s hierarchy.
That being said, one hope I can still cling onto is the notion that a run of late season form could potentially kick-start our future even if it does little to save our Premier League skins.
This weekend could be the start of a revival that eases the transition into Championship football, and it could provide a platform for players to demonstrate their commitment to the cause whilst also rooting out those who simply don’t care. This weekend David Moyes’ men simply must turn up and make a statement.
West Ham have had a tricky second season under Slaven Bilić, and currently sit in 14th place, 8 points away from the relegation zone. It might seem like a decent campaign -especially for Sunderland fans - but many Hammers fans will feel disappointed at the position in which they find themselves - especially when compared to last season’s heroics.
It’s hard to have any sympathy for a team that seem to be doing relatively well. A couple of European adventures, no real threat of relegation, owners who despite their flaws are very open about their hopes, dreams and aspirations - I’m not jealous or anything, promise.
That being said, this isn’t a bad time to play West Ham. Relative safety is almost assured, and with little to play for they might just take their foot off the accelerator. Furthermore, recent losses to both Bournemouth and Hull away from home suggest that Bilić’s side could potentially struggle this weekend; however, that of course is totally dependent on the manner in which Sunderland play.
Sebastian Larsson’s rejected appeal against his red card will most certainly encourage David Moyes to try something different at the weekend, unless Darron Gibson is drafted in as a direct replacement for the Swede. Should Moyes choose to gamble then both Wahbi Khazri and Lynden Gooch will be itching for an opportunity to prove they can make a difference - although in Khazri’s case you’d imagine it would be to impress potential suitors.
We’ve managed to go 11 hours and 15 minutes now without a goal - that simply isn’t good enough. Moyes needs to find a way to instill some confidence in his side and encourage them to push forward in search of goals. Personally, I think Sunderland’s inability to supply Jermain Defoe comes from failing to fill the number 10 role last held by Januzaj in the victory at Selhurst Park - where we also managed to find our last goals. Coincidence? I think not.
I genuinely believe that 3-5-1-1 formation was a good system which Moyes abandoned far too quickly in the wake of one bad result against Southampton. It gave us balance both in attack and defence, whilst also giving us an opportunity to create opportunities both from central positions as well as wider ones. I’d love it if we plumped for that system this weekend, yet I’m not convinced that Moyes will be so bold as to revert back to that system.
David Moyes was in action today as he gave an update ahead of this weekend’s game at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland will be without Bryan Ovideo who, “has a hamstring injury and won't be available. It looks quite bad, probably four-weeks.” I feel for Oviedo, as he has seemingly been one of our better players in recent weeks. You’d imagine Manquillo would come in for the Costa Rican who hopefully sees actions before the end of the season.
Seb is a big loss because he's reliable and we trust him. He puts in a good standard of performance in every game. We'll miss him.
Moyes waxed lyrical about the Swede who was sent off against Manchester United last time out; however, Sunderland must use his absence as a chance to mix things up and be more threatening when in possession of the ball. Larsson certainly gives his all each and every game, but unfortunately his quality on the ball just hasn’t been good enough at times - perhaps that might change this weekend?
In other news, John O’Shea is back at the club after the passing of his father, and I’m sure the fans will give him a great deal of support on his return to Wearside should he be in the matchday squad. The Irishman has been another fantastic servant to the club, and you’d imagine he will be offered another year should we go down. The experience and stability he brings to the side is fantastic - top pro.
Finally, when asked about Joel Asoro and his nomination for European Golden Boy, Moyes noted that:
He's doing really well and his development is coming along. I see him as one of a bunch who could start to knock on the door.
Should Anichebe, Borini and Defoe exit the club this summer, perhaps the young Swede - who turns 18 soon - could be given the chance to shine?
Predicted XI: Pickford, Jones, Kone, Denayer, Manquillo, Cattermole, Rodwell, Ndong, Gibson, Januzaj, Defoe.
Score Prediction: I really, really want to see Moyes encourage the Lads to just go out there and go after West Ham, but unfortunately I don’t see that happening. I’ve noted for weeks that I’d love for us to really go out and play with real intent and ferocity, yet Moyes has maintained with a conservative approach. If we show a similar lack of ambition this weekend West Ham will take a win back to London. Should we be bold in our tactical approach then I think we could potentially sneak a 1-0 win, especially with Antonio out for the rest of West Ham’s season.