Yup, by the end of the weekend we could be consigned to relegation. It’s such a grim thought, and leaves a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. Relegation. It just sounds dirty, rotten and depressing, yet this is the position in which we currently find ourselves.
Sky explained the process of results that need to occur in order for us to be assured of a season in the Championship:
Sunderland will be relegated to the Sky Bet Championship if they lose to Bournemouth on Saturday, and Hull get at least a point against Southampton. If the Black Cats and Hull both lose, a Swansea win at Manchester United on Sunday would seal the fate of David Moyes' team.
We can take some small comfort from the fact that both Hull and Swansea could struggle to secure the points required to kill our chances of another great escape, but wouldn’t that merely be postponing the inevitable?
Bournemouth will be looking to ensure their own push for mathematical safety takes a step further forward this weekend, and what better place to find a result than against the league’s current holders of the wooden spoon?
Bournemouth come into the game having taken 5 points from their last 5 games. Losses to both Chelsea and Tottenham were rather heavy, but they responded well by crushing Boro last weekend at the Vitality. Furthermore, draws with both Liverpool and Southampton have been impressive achievements, and have further aided their march to safety.
This weekend’s match will be highlighted on Eddie Howe’s calendar as a winnable game, and his Bournemouth side will be determined to inflict more misery on the team who secured their first of 5 total wins away to Bournemouth back in November of last year.
That being said, Sunderland have to put the possibility of relegation out of their minds, and give the type of performance required to get the fans back onside after moments during the Boro game which suggested they had had enough of this season’s misery.
So the question remains: what can we do?
Well for one, we need to cut silly errors out of our game and we need some kind of clear, coherent plan on the pitch. We’ve played over 30 games this season and many of us still have little idea about how the style of football the club are trying to play.
The Lads started the game well against Boro, but simply couldn’t create any real gilt-edged chances. Moving Anichebe into the middle alongside Jermain Defoe and asking Khazri to sit in behind may be a start as it would not only afford Khazri more freedom on the ball, but could also enable the overlapping wing-backs to aim for the towering Anichebe should Bournemouth try and close the door with bodies behind the ball.
Anichebe as a target man with Defoe sniffing around for flick-ons and loose balls might sound archaic, but with the resources available to the club right now it would be a start. We need to provide more support to the defense, so perhaps switching to 2 defensive midfielders might help our cause. Effectively we would line up with a 4-2-1-1-2 which would allow greater defensive support, whilst also giving the likes of Khazri and Gibson the opportunity to try and work out an opening on goal.
If we do decide to double up on defensive midfield duties, Darron Gibson must not be allowed to occupy a deep position. The lad can clearly pass a ball, but looks totally out of place when tasked with shielding a back four - that job must be left to Ndong and Cattermole. Gibson needs to take a higher position on the pitch in order to get between Bournemouth’s lines and use his passing abilities to put players into attacking situations. He doesn’t have the legs or athleticism to effectively press an attacking side and ultimately gives away needless fouls, if he is to play then he must be used more effectively.
When asked about potential injuries affecting his plans for the weekend, Moyes admitted that:
Cattermole, Gibson, Rodwell and Denayer have injuries which we will have to take a look at later today.
No players seem to be returning from injury, and the potential absences of the aforementioned players could certainly hurt our chances of securing a good result this weekend.
Predicted XI: Pickford, Jones, Denayer, O’Shea, Manquillo, Ndong, Cattermole, Gibson, Anichebe, Khazri, Defoe.
Score Prediction: I can see Bournemouth giving us a good drubbing, unfortunately. They dismantled Boro last weekend, who in turn defeated us just a few nights ago. I’m going for a 0-2.