There have been plenty of City/Sunderland clashes over the course of time and this time it gives MFW the opportunity to engage with a friend of mine, Thomas Weetman, a season ticket holder at the Stadium of Light since 2010.
He was kind enough to take time out of his break in the Northeast to talk to us ahead of Saturday’s game.
Q: What are your thoughts on Sunderland’s season so far?
A: So far, very positive. After a poor start, it looked clear that we missed the creativity that Amad Diallo brought, however since we have found a rhythm and for the youngest squad in the Championship, being sat in ninth place only three points off third – we’ve had a strong start.
Q: What are your expectations and hopes for the season?
A: Also, very positive. If we can keep players fit, which we seem to struggle to do, I see no reason why this squad can’t push for playoffs. Especially under a good manager with lots of Championship experience in Tony Mowbray.
Q: Where do you expect both sides to finish in the table?
A: I expect both sides to be up and around the playoffs this year, however, I feel as if Norwich for as much of a strong squad that they have, I cannot see them finishing in a playoff place with David Wagner in the hot seat.
Q: Where do you think Sunderland need to take precautions on Saturday?
A: We need to watch down the right side and the ball in midfield. As it stands with all of our left backs unfit and a very injury-prone Niall Huggins filling in at left back it could be a problem against Jonathan Rowe. And through the middle, as much as I feel that Sunderland’s midfield has been better than Norwich’s this season, it’s impossible to overlook the threat that Gabriel Sara can bring in any match.
Q: Predictions for the weekend?
A: 2-1 Sunderland win. I feel this season we have done better defensively than the Canaries this season because of the number of defensive injuries you have picked up over the summer and the start of the season. Even with this, it will be a close match with two very even sides going head-to-head.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Well by that definition, someone had better get David Wagner and his coaching staff some straitjackets. The methodology they seem to persist with simply isn’t working as it was at the start of the season, and many fans believe it’s time to change the men behind the failings.
This has made the environment surrounding Norwich City painfully bleak. The Canaries have offered so little in their last few games that we’re now beginning to see a resemblance to the Dean Smith era just under a year ago.
We currently possess just two wins in our last ten fixtures and just six victories in our last 24 matches with Wagner at the helm. Our Gary put it perfectly just from his column’s title – “Sorry David, it’s not all your fault, but it is time to go”.
It’s also no surprise that we concede goals so easily and are unable to close games out when only QPR (who are 22nd in the table) have a lower expected goals against (xGA) than you in the league. We’ve given up 82 shots in our last four games – an average of 20 efforts a game. Simply woeful.
But now the attention turns to our ‘Friendly Final’ opposition from 1985 and a side that hasn’t beat us at home since February 2012 in a 3-0 loss thanks to goals from Fraizer Campbell, Stephane Sessegnon, and a Daniel Ayala own goal.
Sunderland sit ninth in the table with three losses on the bounce but with five wins in their last ten. However, they possess the 13th-best home form in the league with three wins and three defeats but that’s where the positivity stops for Norwich.
The Canaries only have one win away from home in the Championship and have conceded 15 goals in just six away games, ranking them 18th in the table on away form. Also, given how we only have one point from our last four games, you would think it’s only going to go one way.
But the Black Cats do have plenty of injuries going into this game.
Their left-back Ajibola Alese is out until next month, midfielder Jay Matete is also out, summer signing Timothee Pembele is nursing a knee injury, and Corry Evans is out until the new year.
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Patterson; O’Nien, Ballard, Huggins, Hume; Ekwah; Bellingham Clarke, Neil, Roberts; Burstow
I’m expecting Mowbray to make no changes from his starting XI that lost at Leicester on Tuesday night, mainly due to their current injury crisis, and also that I believe this is the strongest squad available to the manager.
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Long; Stacey, Duffy, Warner, Giannoulis; Sara, McLean; Fassnacht, Sainz, Rowe; Idah
With the news that Angus Gunn is out for the next three games, George Long once again is the starting goalkeeper. I’ve gone here with the side I would like to see – which means that Marcelino Nunez, Onel Hernandez and Ben Gibson are dropped from Tuesday with Borja Sainz, Christian Fassnacht and Jaden Warner coming in. Just a shame that Wagner will most likely make very few changes and risk another tactical disaster.
The time is now for Wagner to get a result and try to regain the fans’ connection back that was evident a few months ago. If he doesn’t I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of the last times we see him in the dugout.
This is a huge test for him and the players. Win this, and you prove a big point. Lose and it’s game over.