Keir Bradwell had us worried. A 12-year-old Sunderland fan about to knock spots off the old codgers who live here more or less permanently! Happily, he turns out to have had his 13th birthday. Sixer and Monsieur Salut can feel slighty better about the new kid on the block. He is mightily welcome. And here, with impecccable timing, is the first offering. It’s all about a certain game and how Keir reckons we can win it. His next task is to come up with a better title than Keir’s Here …
The Plan of Attack
In the hours prior to kick-off, Gus Poyet will have a hectic schedule, but his two main things will be choosing a team and organising it. It is in these two areas that I have obsessively spent my weeks worrying, and so I shall now attempt to explain what Poyet will do, and what I think he should do, for the Capital One Cup final.
Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis and Fernandinho are all available on Sunday for Manchester City. Matija Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic are both out, however, as are Liam Bridcutt and Keiren Westwood for Sunderland. Wes Brown returns from his suspension and Steven Fletcher should be fit, but don’t expect him to start.
We may well be in for some surprise team selections, as Poyet has spoken about playing Emanuele Giaccherini in the week, saying;
“He has got more opportunity for many, many reasons. The first is because he has played at the highest level with Italy so he can cope with the emotions and because he’s been pushing more lately. He knows a little bit more what we need from him and where I think he should be playing. I know where he wants to play as well so there’s a little bit more of a clear picture. He’s got a big chance. I’m sure that either starting or playing he will be part of the final. It would have to be really strange not to be part of it.”
With Fabio Borini also hinted as playing as well as Lee Cattermole, expect a change in shape for Sunderland, similar to what they ended with at the defeat against Arsenal: a 4-1-3-2, Giaccherini and Borini up front, Cattermole as the deep-lying midfielder and Johnson, Ki, and Larsson or Colback as the middle three. Sunderland’s back five should pick itself now that Brown is available, as Mannone, Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea and Alonso have all nailed down starting places for the club.
I can see why Poyet could choose Larsson over Colback on that left side; while I’m far from his biggest fan, Larsson can provide more width and is liable to push forward, while Colback is traditionally a central midfielder who won’t attack like Larsson would. Yet I think more defensive solidarity and midfield possession has to be the priority against a dominant team like Manchester City. It would mean losing some shape and fielding a slightly unbalanced side, but that has to be a sacrifice worth making for someone who is better in control and has more composure on the ball. All other elements of that team, for me, are spot on. Giaccherini deserves a place on form alone, and I’d like to see Borini play centrally more often.
Though the 4-1 defeat at Arsenal was a defensive shambles, Poyet has generally managed to keep his players playing good, structured football. I think that while playing it safe all game will stop a rout, we need to be wary that they are always going to look to score and if we’re too defensive and concede, we’ll not have enough going forward to claw it back. If it were me, I’d keep possession but also push forward, similar to Poyet’s victory against Newcastle away, as keeping the ball in their half and dominating the game could only mean stopping City getting the ball just outside our area and firing away. Letting them get worn out by our possession in their half could only benefit us late on, rather than the other way round. We must avoid playing like we did against Arsenal for the first 80 minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, if we play like we did earlier in the season against them then I’m fine with that too, but to play without fear & with belief that we can show them up could have more successful results on the big Wembley pitch. Wigan did that last year under Roberto Martinez, and, while they left it late, it worked a treat.
However we play, Poyet’s possession football is certainly better suited to not only winning games, but winning games against bigger teams, and that gives me confidence in our ability to get a result.
Overall then, I’ve got faith in Poyet to get it right, even if I’d change a couple of things myself than what I expect him to do. You never know, he might even set us up like I would.
Maybe he’s been thinking about this since the 23rd of January too.
Keir – a southern-based supporter with North-eastern family links – on himself:
I’m Keir and I love Sunderland. I live in Hertfordshire, which is where I irritate classmates by winding them up about their London-based, comparatively tiny, footballing miseries. I’m 13, 14 in September and while I may not be the most experienced Sunderland fan, I certainly love our habit of being extremely glorious one minute and terrible the next.
I have a love/hate relationship with transfer windows, Lee Cattermole and other people’s opinions, so I hope that I can at least offer some alternative points of view on this site.