In 1992 the average salary for a Premier League footballer was £1,755 per week. By 2010 this has increased to a whopping £35,000 and at the moment few could argue that Sunderland are offering value for money.
In fact, if the team were paid per goal or victory, they would not only owe the club a considerable sum of money, but would be so indebted to the fans that they would struggle to repay it. If you feel that I’m being a little harsh, then lets consider the gory (not glory) facts:
- Only three wins in the last 24 league games
- A paltry 13 attempts on target during this seasons 9 games
- The lowest scorers in England’s four professional divisions (92 clubs)
- Worst attacking record across all five of Europe’s top divisions.
Some may find solace in the famous quote by Benjamin Disraeli, (19th century British Prime Minister) which is paraphrased as ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’ and point to two strong penalty appeals that were turned down in recent games that could have changed the Black Cat fortunes. However, it wont change the fact that Sunderland haven’t beaten Everton since December 2001, or won at Goodison Park since 1996 – and only a fool would confidently bet on this changing.
High-flying Everton have spent more seasons in the top flight that any other side and are genuine European qualification contenders. With players the calibre of Fellaini, Baines, Jelavic and Piennar they offer real quality and boundless confidence built on only one defeat in ten league games this season. David Moyes, who was appointed in 2002 and is the most astute English manager around, underpins this success and is tipped to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor. How Louis Saha must dream that he was still donning the blue of Everton rather than his current Black Cat nightmare.
However, Everton’s current success is ironically an excellent template for Sunderland as both teams usually adopt a 4-5-1 formation. The key difference (apart from confidence, form and goal scoring prowess) is that the Toffees are more incisive in the final third and play with a greater pace and attacking intent.
So what can Sunderland do? Martin O’Neill will player Fletcher as the lone striker and the defence (Bardsley, O’Shea, Cuellar and Rose or Colback) largely picks itself. The real brain-teaser is midfield, where we need to balance solidity (Cattermole and Colback) with passing vision (Larsson and Vaughan) and offensive ability (Sessengnon, Johnson, McClean, and Gardner). This may exclude ex-Evertonian, McFadden (injured) and Meyler (loan), but Sunderland still have eight players chasing five team places – who said there is strength in numbers. My midfield ‘fantastic five’ would therefore be as follows:
- Left: Rose (to try something different)
- Right: Johnson (with Campbell waiting in the wings – sorry about the pun)
- Centre: Cattermole, Meyler with Sessegnon playing just behind Fletcher.
Of course O’Neill will have his own ideas (that cost Sunderland over £1m per year) but he would be mad to ignore me. I have successfully managed a number of teams since 1998 including Darlington, Vauxhall Motors and Accrington Stanley; wining 10 Premier League titles, the FA Cup twice and the Champions League for three successive years. Don’t let anyone tell you that the computer game, Football Manager, isn’t as hard as the real thing!
In the final analysis if Sunderland repeat their recent performances then the Toffees will chew us up and spit us out. Hence I fear an away defeat.
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