Will Coleman finally show us what he’s made of?
If Chris Coleman wasn’t already a specialist in turd-polishing before he arrived on Wearside then he should be by now - although attempting to buff up something akin to horrendous diarrhea is an unenviable task.
That said, I spoke a number of weeks ago on the Roker Rapport Podcast about how I felt that once things got down to the nitty-gritty we’d see what Coleman was truly capable of.
Well, that time has come. We’ve got perhaps the biggest game of the season this weekend and the Welshman has to, by hook or by crook, produce a rarebit (snort) out of his hat.
He’s talked about risk-taking and the importance of a win, but in equal measure it would be fair to say that despite having countless opportunities to mix it up in recent weeks he’s instead opted to be loyal to players like Lee Cattermole, John O’Shea and Ashley Fletcher, who continually let him down time after time.
What are you truly made of, Chris?
Will the Sunderland public turn out in numbers?
I might as well answer my own question here - doubtful.
And can you blame people? Unless you’re a season ticket holder or you’ve managed to nab one for free, what incentive is there to attend the match today?
For what is an absolutely massive game tickets are priced at £25 for adults - granted, it’s a reasonable amount for Championship football, but with crowds dwindling with each passing game the club really could have done with putting some effort behind convincing people to come to games and support the team.
Our last chance to claw back points?
Week after week we talk about how the next game is an important one in terms of the relegation battle, yet despite each passing defeat the teams above us don’t seem able to make their advantage count.
We’re still just five points behind Barnsley in 21st, who face a tough game at home against in-form Millwall. It’s not inconceivable that we could narrow the difference down to just two points tomorrow if all of the stars align, but we simply cannot pass up another opportunity to place some pressure on those above us.
Barnsley and co are not going to keep slipping up - eventually they will make us pay for our poor mistakes. Winning tomorrow is of paramount importance, and we have to make sure that we get the three points by whatever means necessary. It could be our last chance to close the gap.
Isn’t it time we saw LuaLua?
Kazenga LuaLua was talked up upon signing as the kind of player capable of individual brilliance but, due to injuries, we’ve still yet to see him start a game in a Sunderland shirt.
Coleman confirmed yesterday in his press conference that he’s back in contention, and in my view we can’t afford to not start him when in the position that we find ourselves in currently.
Most of us know exactly what our attacking options are capable of and whilst the Sunderland manager has been reluctant to drop Ashley Fletcher, now is undoubtedly the time to do it. Josh Maja is very raw but his link-up play with Asoro is a more potent threat than whatever it is we’re trying to achieve with Fletcher, and if we can get a good hour out of LuaLua we should be alright.
We’ve got options in McManaman and McGeady to replace him once he starts to tire, but it’s fairly important that we give him an opportunity to show what he can do from the start of a match sooner rather than later.
Four or Five at the back (again)?
A lack of bodies forced Chris Coleman into selecting a four man defence last weekend at Queens Park Rangers and, whilst we got beat, it would be fair to say that our shape and flow was improved having ditched the five-man back-line from the game before.
But, that said, it’s known that Chris Coleman has a preferred system - despite it not really working out for us recently - and with the return of a couple of players it may well prompt him to revert back to his favoured formation.
John O’Shea is a doubt but I imagine he’ll still play, and Jake Clarke-Salter is available again having served a three match ban for his sending off against Middlesbrough.
Sacrificing a midfielder or attacker for a defender at this stage of the season seems ridiculous, and I’m not a huge fan of playing with five at the back at home anyways, but Coleman’s not much of a risk taker and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him step back into his comfort zone for this game in an attempt to nick the three points.