Five Talking Points - Sunderland

Five Talking Points


The big topics for discussion ahead of West Ham United's Premier League fixture at Sunderland...


1. Forward thinking

Despite the absence of the injured Michail Antonio, who has been ruled out for the season with a hamstring injury, Slaven Bilic says he has ‘options’ up front.

After recovering from their own injuries, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho were only fit enough for cameo roles against Swansea City last weekend, meaning Jonathan Calleri was called upon when Antonio pulled up in the first half.

Calleri put in a superb shift for his team in the lone striker’s role, harassing the Swans’ centre-backs, creating space for his teammates with his intelligent running and finding himself in the right place to score his first London Stadium goal – only for his shot to hit the side-netting.

Bilic hinted that Carroll and Sakho could both feature at Sunderland, with the suggestion that Calleri or Carroll could start, with one replacing the other at some stage.


2. Left-back conundrum

Arthur Masuaku
Arthur Masuaku started and played well in keeping a clean sheet against Swansea City last weekend in the absence of the injured Aaron Cresswell.

However, the England international is fit again and will be part of the squad which travels to the North East.

The likelihood is that Slaven Bilic will stick with the athletic Frenchman at left-back, but Cresswell has been the de-facto starter since his arrival nearly three years ago, and his Premier League pedigree is not in doubt, despite his injury-affected season.


4. Beware the wounded Black Cat

It has been a very difficult season for Sunderland, who go into the weekend ten points from safety with just six games remaining.

If a game was ever ‘must-win’ then this is it for David Moyes’ team, who have amassed just 20 points from their 31 Premier League matches played so far.

The Black Cats have not scored in their last SEVEN top-flight games and more than eleven hours of football, a run dating back to a 4-0 win at Crystal Palace on 4 February, but that unwanted record must end sometime.

With the games running out and away matches at Arsenal and Chelsea to round out the season, Sunderland will be targeting a home game against West Ham as a chance to score a much-needed victory.

While their form has been indifferent, the Hammers must beware the wounded Black Cats.


4. Jermain’s Defoe-nitely going to score…

Jermain Defoe


Jermain Defoe is definitely going to score against West Ham, isn't he...

Or is he?

While the common perception among West Ham United supporters is that Jermain Defoe ALWAYS scores against his old club, it is not strictly true.

In 16 appearances against the Hammers since departing in 2003, the striker has netted six times, but has not scored against West Ham in his last six games against them.

Also, Defoe has not exactly enjoyed the greatest success against his former employers, ending up on the winning side in just five of those 16 matches, drawing four and losing seven.

Just for the record, he has also chalked up two assists and been booked five times in games against West Ham.


5. Seven and counting…

West Ham United have not lost any of their last seven Premier League matches against Sunderland dating back to a 3-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light in January 2013.

Since then, the Hammers have scored four wins and three draws against the Black Cats, including 1-0 victories in their two most-recent meetings and a come-from-behind 2-2 draw on Wearside last season.

One player who certainly enjoys playing against Sunderland is Andy Carroll who, despite scoring just once in nine appearances against the team many of his family support, has won five and lost just one of those nine games.

Could it be time to unleash the Big Man again on Saturday?