Sunderland Preview

Manager: Dick Advocaat
Stadium: Stadium of Light
Captain: Lee Cattermole
Top Scorer: Connor Wickham/ Jordi Gomez (6)

Sunderland a season that saw them head for relegation before a sterling fightback under Advocaat saw them find a way to stay in England’s top flight. Sunderland live to fight another day.

Sunderland had a fairly average start to the season although they failed to secure a win until 4th October, they only lost 1 match and that was a 1-0 defeat away at QPR. They had managed wonderful draws against both Manchester United and Tottenham setting them up rather nicely. The 3-1 win over Stoke was unfortunately not a sign of things to come for Poyet and the Black Cats as 14 days later they would suffer a 8-0 humbling at the hands of Southampton. This would be a should destroying result for any side they returned home the week after only to once again fail to score as Arsenal won 2-0. Sunderland did manage 2 more wins before Christmas defeating Crystal Palace 3-1 in early November, and a crucial win over Tyneside rivals Newcastle just before Christmas. They finished the year in 14th place and relatively safe but with only 3 wins under their belts.

Ecstasy for Sunderland as they beat Newcastle.

Ecstasy for Sunderland as they beat Newcastle.

After Christmas Poyet could only manage 1 more win before he was sacked mid-March and that was only a routine victory over strugglers Burnley. Prior to this rare win they had lost 3 games in a row and were looking in bad shape. Following the win over Burnley Poyet only survived a further 6 games. The final nail in the former Brighton bosses coffin was Aston Villa defeating Sunderland 4-0 at the Stadium of Light leading to Poyet’s departure 2 days later. Sunderland were now languishing in 17th place just above the drop zone. Dick Advocaat took over and would only lose 3 times with Sunderland before the season was over. In just his 2nd game in charge Sunderland once again defeated Newcastle to do the double over their local rivals which has become something of a regular occurrence.

Sunderland would see May as the month they recovered as they won their 1st two games exacting revenge over Southampton with a 2-1 win and also beating Everton before 2 draws against Arsenal and Leicester before a loss to Chelsea on the final day. It was not perfect but Sunderland had done what they set out to do and Advocaat had taken Sunderland to 16th place and they were safe for at least one more season. Sunderland are going to need one hell of a change in fortune and gameplan if they want to get higher than they did last season.

Connor Wickham was by far their best player last year and it is hard to see where the goals will come from now he has joined Crystal Palace for an extortionate £9 million. Jack Rodwell is a promising midfielder his time at Manchester City stunted his career after limited success at Everton but it seems the 24 year old is trying to now rebuild his career in the north east and he is a very good player, his passing game is an asset to any time he sees space and has the talent to exploit it. His work rate is impeccable and with players like M’Vila and Cattermole around him they form a very hard working midfield. Jack Rodwell is sure to be in Advocaat’s plans leading into this season. This could be a huge season for the 3 cap England midfielder.

Jack Rodwell is all smiles after scoring his first goal for Sunderland against Manchester United.

Jack Rodwell is all smiles after scoring his first goal for Sunderland against Manchester United.

Sunderland have gone on a recruitment drive as well as securing M’Vila on loan from Rubin Kazan they have closed the deal on 4 new players whilst losing 3. Former Tottenham man Younés Kaboul is a big signing he not only brings Premier League experience but a defensive game that was something that was greatly lacking in Sunderland’s armoury last season. They have also brought in Coates from Premier League rivals Liverpool another worthy addition to the side. Sunderland’s recruitment doesn’t see any big names but the new faces are more necessity than luxury.

Kaboul in action for former club Spurs.

Kaboul in action for former club Spurs.

Departures are fairly insignificant bar Wickham who leaves after 2 big seasons. It seems the striker got bored of the Sunderland circus and heads off to London. His goals will be missed. As will his searing pace and creativity a rare bright spark in the black clouds that gathered over the Stadium of Light last season.

IN: Younés Kaboul (Tottenham Hotspur, £3 million)
Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kyiv (£8 million)
Sebastián Coates (Liverpool, £2 million)
Adam Matthews (Celtic, £2 million)

OUT: Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace, £9 million)
El Hadji-Ba (Charlton Athletic, £500,000)
Anthony Réveillére (Free Agents, Free)

Sunderland have recruited well and Dick Advocaat is a very clever manager he will have a trick or 2 up his sleeve but in my eyes survival is highly unlikely.

My Sunderland XI (4-1-3-2-1): 1 C.Pantilimon; 15 Y.Kaboul, 5 W.Brown 22 S.Coates 3 P.van Aanholt; 14 J.Gomez; 8 J.Rodwell 4 L.Cattermole (C), 21 Y.M’Vila; 17 J.Lens, 19 D.Graham; 18 J.Defoe

Bench: 25 V.Mannone 12 A.Matthews 16 J.O’Shea 7 S.Larsson 4 L.Bridcutt 23 E.Giaccherini 26 S.Fletcher

Last Season: 16th

Prediction: 20th (Relegated)

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Everton Preview

Manager: Roberto Martinez
Stadium: Goodison Park
Captain: Phil Jagielka
Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku (20)

Everton have played some good football over the season with the likes of Stones and Barkley stepping up and leading the team to a strong finish. Everton may struggle this season especially if one of the top clubs can prise John Stones away from Goodison Park.

Everton made some important additions prior to the start of last season such as England midfielder Gareth Barry and former Chelsea striker Lukaku is instrumental for the Liverpool based club. Everton finished the calendar year with the second worst defensive record in the league due to a tumultuous campaign with the losses over the Christmas period to Southampton and Newcastle United leaving Martinez and his team mid-table.

Romelu Lukaku scores a goal against West Ham.

Romelu Lukaku scores a goal against West Ham.

Roberto Martinez’ style of play has made his team one of the best teams to watch aside from Manchester City. On the attack Everton have some very special players in the midfield and up front such as England attacking midfielder Barkley and Lukaku so goals were not hard to come by it was the defending that was worrying for the Blues. Everton managed to score a goal in every league match until November when they played Swansea and drew 0-0. However it was in the same month they recorded only their second home win of the season over Londoners West Ham winning 2-1.

Their record in the Europa League was much stronger as they topped the group with a game to spare losing just once to Krasnodar 1-0 in their final group match at Goodison Park. March marked the turnaround for the club was Martinez’ team went on a run of 6 games undefeated with 5 wins including crushing 3-0 wins over Newcastle and Manchester United both at home. The second half of the season was a huge improvement as from December they didn’t suffer home defeat again until May when Sunderland beat them 2-0.

Romelu Lukaku scored 20 goals for the team last season banging in 10 in the league. He was prolific in Europe netting 8 times in 7 starts and 2 appearances off the bench. The Belgian forward has been a deadly finisher for a number of years including his loan spell at Everton in the 2013-14 season. He is only 22 and has already made 37 appearances at international level scoring 8 goals. The prolific finisher has been a hugely big influence on the club justifying his £28 million price tag making him a club record signing.

Everton have not been overly busy in the transfer market signing 3 players only spending just over £4 million bringing in Cleverley on a free. His torrid time at Manchester United has finally come to an end he played at Aston Villa next season and was huge for Tim Sherwood in the final part of the season. The 25 year old could be a success at Everton and Martinez will hope the England international can finally settle after a flurry of loans whilst he was at Old Trafford. They have also brought in Barcelona forward Deulofeu who never really broke into the 1st team at Nou Camp and spent last season with Sevilla, he has only made 2 appearances for his former La Liga club. He spent the 2013-14 season at Goodison Park so he’s no stranger to the Premier League a real bargain at just £4.2 million.

New signing Cleverley in action for Manchester United.

New signing Cleverley in action for Manchester United.

A lot of players being released from duty at Everton to trim their squad to a reasonable size a trend this season among the Premier League clubs. Distin heads to newly promoted Bournemouth after 174 appearances for Everton the 37 year old could be important for the Cherries. Chris Long also leaves the club for Championship outfit Burnley, not surprising considering the acquisition of Deulofeu and with Lukaku and Koné well established in the squad the England under-20 forward has gone in search of pastures new after graduating from the Everton academy. John Stones future hangs in the balance, Everton will be keen to keep hold of him but if he does go, you can be sure it will be for a premium.

IN: Tom Cleverley (Manchester United, Free)
Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona, £4.2 million)
David Henen (Olympiakos, £200,000)

OUT: Sylvain Distin (Bournemouth, Free)
George Green (Oldham Athletic, Free)
Chris Long (Burnley, Undisclosed)
Antolin Alcaraz (Free Agents, Free)
Curtis Langton (Free Agents, Free)
Ben McLaughlin (Free Agents, Free)
John Lundstram (Free Agents, Free)
George Newell (Free Agents, Free)
Arlen Birch (Free Agents, Free)
Charley Edge (Free Agents, Free)

Everton are sure to entertain again this season and although they will hope to push for the top 8 I think it will be tough and if Stones doesn’t leave this summer January will be tough. With little strength in depth Everton could struggle all over the park come April and May when the fatigue sets in. It will be an interesting season up on Merseyside.
My Everton XI (4-2-1-3): 24 T.Howard; 23 S.Coleman 6 P.Jagielka (C) 5 J.Stones 3 L.Baines; 18 G.Barry 16 J.McCarthy; 20 R.Barkley; 19 G.Deulofeu 10 R.Lukaku 11 K.Mirallas

Bench: 1 J.Robles 2 T.Hibbert 27 T.Browning 7 A.McGeady 15 T.Cleverley 9 A.Koné 14 S.Naismith

Last Season: 11th
Predicition: 12th