Fresh from the encouraging win against Crystal Palace last weekend Hammer’s supporters will be looking for the same professionalism and panache as West Ham entertain lowly Sunderland at the London Stadium today. Without a win all season and just two draws in their account the visitors look almost as miserable as the look on their manager’s face. If ever a team reflected the manager’s personality on the pitch then it is the Black Cats.
David Moyes is Sunderland’s 13th manager (plus a couple of caretakers) this century and is the epitome of the dour Scotsman; like the one who has won the lottery and then admonishes himself for buying a second ticket. History would suggest that he won’t be at the Stadium of Light this time next year when in reality Sunderland need to stick with someone for a few years to sort themselves out. A biggish stadium does not make a big club and there seems to be a lot wrong at the club as their perennial struggles and unlikely great escapes implies.
“It was good in the camp two or three weeks ago. We didn’t stop training but of course it’s a better mood because the confidence is back, in a positive way.”
– Slaven Bilic
Anything other than a convincing West Ham win today will be a huge disappointment. We took four points off the Black Cats last season but were quite fortunate to do so; with the drawn away game hinging on a sending off after limply going 2-0 down and the home game a narrow and scrappy 1-0 victory. We need to see more of the high tempo, quick passing and movement from last week and avoid a return to the ponderous build up that has characterised the majority of the season.
Head to Head
Our Head to Head record with Sunderland was another which I believed would be firmly to our advantage when in fact it is almost level pegging. My instinct was that it this is a fixture where we routinely rattle in the goals but I guess that is merely the claret and blue spectacles playing havoc with my rear-view perception.
West Ham have won three of the last six home fixture while the last Sunderland away success came in a 3-0 victory in the very final game of the woeful Avram Grant season.
By rights we should have been expecting an unchanged team from the previous match but, sadly, incompetent refereeing means that Aaron Cresswell sits this one out. Andre Ayew is back in training but remains some way away from a recall while the recuperation of Carroll and Sakho is following a ‘tomorrow never comes’ regime; it seems that we have devised a new position of the ‘False Substitute’ which will be making Pep very jealous.
Gaun yersel’, haud yer wheesht. Shut yer geggy, whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye. Away an bile yer heid.
– David Moyes
I expect the starting line-up will be as last week, retaining three at the back, with Arbeloa coming in for Cresswell. It will not be as effective without Cresswell’s exceptional forward and link up play but is the best fit to build on the momentum of last week. I wonder what the odds are on Zaza to emulate Geoff Hurst and score 6 goals?
Sunderland will include pantomime villain Jermaine Defoe in their line-up. Still one of the best finishers in the Premier League I assume the defence are well aware that whatever else happens he mustn’t score.
Man in the Middle
Today’s referee is Robert ‘Bobby’ Madely from West Yorkshire. Madely was in charge of West Ham on three occasions last season including the fine wins away at Manchester City and at home to Liverpool. The other game, the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, was less auspicious as his various blunders cost the Hammers another memorable away success. Madely is in fine yellow card form this season with 30 bookings from 6 games.