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Is Big Sam the Man to Keep Sunderland in the Premier League?

Calum Pettitt

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When you look at Sunderland’s situation and how they have performed in recent seasons in the top flight, you realise that Sam Allardyce has a very big challenge set out ahead of him. He takes the reins of a Sunderland side who have failed to win a game this term and are lying five points from safety after just eight games played. Allardyce took the job on the premise of wanting a challenge and he has perhaps secured the toughest job out of any of the managers in the top flight. The Sunderland job itself has become one of the more turbulent positions in football as they have seen 13 managers in the past 13 years. As a result, Big Sam will be under no illusions as to how cut-throat a business football can be following his recent sacking by West Ham United. Harry Redknapp recently mentioned on Twitter how he felt that Sam Allardyce would not take the job at Sunderland unless he personally felt he could keep them up and that he felt he had full control over the squad.

It is not uncommon for managers to leave Sunderland with negative experiences, both on and off the pitch. It is a growing issue in football that often players are not signed by the manager and Sunderland could well be a prime example. Whilst the money has certainly been invested, the quality of these acquisitions are still questionable. Redknapp also addressed this by simply stating “Who’s signing the players?”. The former Spurs manager went on to say that “Sam is a very confident guy, he’s got a big ego, and he’s done fantastic wherever he has been” and this would lead you to believe that he never would have taken the job unless he felt he was in complete control of what was going on and most importantly, free of meddling from upstairs.

Big Sam’s Premier League management record is incredibly consistent wherever he goes. He seemingly always wins 30-35% of the matches he guides his side into, which is a fairly steady if not an entirely inspiring record. However, if Allardyce was able to repeat the trick with Sunderland, they should be able to pick up the points required to remain in the Premier League for another campaign. However, this does raise an issue for Allardyce as he is a former manager of Newcastle – albeit for a fairly brief period. He was at Sunderland for a time during his playing career but this obstacle from the neighbouring city could prove troublesome for some supporters to overlook. Although having said this, a win against his old side Newcastle in only his second game in charge would be a great way to reacquaint himself with the Sunderland faithful. Could history repeat itself once more as the latest man at the helm of The Black Cats achieve early success with a victory over their Geordie rivals?

One thing that the Sunderland faithful will be sure of is how they are going to see their side play in the coming months. You know what you are going to get with Sam Allardyce and that is a very direct style of play which relies on pumping the ball into the opposition penalty area and putting as much pressure on the defending centre backs as possible. This may not sound very glamourous and Allardyce has faced scrutiny from even his own fans in the past; particularly during his time at West Ham, for this style of play but it could be exactly what Sunderland need at the moment. It is an approach that often relies on getting the basics right first, which is exactly what a team such as Sunderland need at the moment.

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It may not be putting Barcelona to shame, but this more conservative and simplified style of football has a proven track record of turning clubs into established top flight sides. The main example of this is perhaps Stoke City, who entered the top flight playing with a very obvious intent – to get the ball into dangerous areas at any opportunity. This is without mentioning that any time someone in Sunday League football has a long throw on them, it will now forever be dubbed a ‘Rory Delap’ throw-in. Stoke City are now a very well established Premier League side and have now moved away from the more direct style under Mark Hughes, but it was the rudimentary and rugged style of managers past that laid the foundations of a successful stay in the top flight of English football.

Sunderland are a team that when compared to many other teams in the Premier League, have seen very little by the way of available transfer funds. However, while many will see a Sunderland bereft of form and confidence, there is definitely a good degree of talent located at the Stadium of Light at the moment. The squad has bags of Premier League experience as well as several capable of injecting both speed and technical ability throughout. If Big Sam can get the players to gel and play to the standard that they are capable of, there is no reason why Sunderland fans won’t start to see some much more productive and positive performances as the season progresses.

One possible recruit that has earned a mention is current free agent Kevin Nolan. Nolan has captained three separate Sam Allardyce sides and is available following his own departure from Upton Park. However, Kevin Nolan is now 33 years old and like Allardyce is also a former Newcastle player. If Nolan was to be signed by Sunderland it would probably follow with him becoming captain, which may prove to be master-stroke for Allardyce. The current squad is one where perhaps some players have fallen into the trap of becoming too comfortable in their surroundings and the addition of Nolan could rejuvenate a side in desperate need of fresh ideas. The Allardyce-Nolan axis is a tried and tested method that has seemingly never let either side of the connection down and it could certainly be an option for Big Sam to stamp his own mark on the team long before the January transfer window.
[interaction id=”561e731341d4754d1452aaf5"] The first two matches will be critical for Sam Allardyce and Sunderland as they face fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion followed by a huge derby against Newcastle. The Magpies coincidentally also happen to be the only side that have started this season worse than Sunderland and you feel that whichever side wins this fixture could see a real improvement in confidence going into the next few games. Sunderland fans will be desperate to see an upturn in form and positivity in these upcoming encounters. To come away with a victory from either of these two games; particularly over their bitter rivals, could provide a massive boost for Allardyce’s men moving forwards.

As far as Sunderland’s chances of survival go, many have already written them off. However, one thing we should remember from recent Premier League seasons is that even when a team threatened with relegation are seemingly on the brink of collapse, all it takes is one result for a team to suddenly turn their fortunes around and go on a run of good form. In Sam Allardyce, Sunderland have a manager that has never been relegated in all his years of football management. They also have a team that possesses a great deal of experience at the highest level and with a healthy portion of pace and quality which is always a formula that can trouble any side. It remains to be seen as to whether Big Sam can turn around Sunderland’s current demise but with 30 games left to do it, a personal relationship with the Mackems, and something of a point to prove following his sacking from West Ham, it doesn’t seem entirely out of the question that Big Sam will make a real go of it as the season progresses.


Featured Image: All rights reserved by momomama2013

Calum is a Reading fan and has been a season ticket holder for many years. He is currently studying for a degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Tottenham Hotspur

Alireza Jahanbakhsh perfect alternative to Malcom if Tottenham miss out

The Iran international scored 22 league goals last season.

Liam Thomas

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Alireza Jahanbakhsh
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Tottenham Hotspur are edging closer to signing Brazilian starlet Malcom from Bordeaux with the 21-year-old keen to make the switch from Ligue 1 to the Premier League, according to The Sun.

However, despite the apparent interest from Spurs, no formal bid has been made by the North London side and, considering the rife competition for the youngster’s signature from around Europe, other alternatives should be considered.

This is where Iranian World Cup star Alireza Jahanbakhsh comes into the mix. The talented 24-year-old forward could be the perfect alternative to Malcom if Spurs miss out on signing the Brazilian starlet.

You only have to look as far back as last season to see the quality Jahanbakhsh possesses. Plying his trade in the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar the forward managed to notch up an impressive 22 goals and 14 assists in 39 appearances for the Dutch side.

(Photo by Saeed Khan/Getty Images)

This killer instinct in front of goal is something Spurs have been craving to lift some of the pressure off of talisman Harry Kane’s shoulders in recent seasons.

Furthermore the Iranian international has to ability to play anywhere along the front three and is equally capable of playing with both feet, two traits which led to Spurs’ interest in Malcom in the first place.

However, despite the forwards fantastic record and undeniable talent, there will always be an element of risk when requiring a player from the Dutch top flight, with many players in the past failing to step up and settle into life in the Premier League.

Nevertheless, Jahanbakhsh’ World Cup performances for Iran proved he is more than capable of stepping up to play on the big stage. This is something Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino should consider if they miss out on signing Malcom.

It remains to be seen whether or not Tottenham will land the signature of Bordeaux’s Malcom. However, if they don’t, Jahanbakhsh could prove to be a savvy bit of business and a cheaper alternative.

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Liverpool

Does Allan have a future at Liverpool after nomadic loan spells?

Liverpool brought in the talented midfielder three years ago but he has yet to play for the club.

Mathew Nash

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In the summer of 2015, pictures emerged of an unknown footballer in training with Liverpool’s first-team. It soon emerged that the player in question was Allan Rodrigues de Souza. Liverpool had signed Allan from Internacional in a deal reported to be in the region of £500,000. He looked like a great signing for the future and went on to play exceptionally well during a loan spell at SJK, helping them to their first Finnish title.

But since then it has been something of a struggle for the midfielder. Subsequent loan spells at Sint-Truiden in Belgium, Hertha Berlin in Germany and Apollon Limassol in Cyprus have been less of a hit. His last spell ended when a shoulder injury needed surgery and he has struggled with his nomadic career path since.

(Photo credit should read CARMEN JASPERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

One pressing issue is his need for a work permit. So far the 21-year-old has not yet managed to procure one and can therefore not play for the club.

Even if he did, it seems Allan would be some way away from the first-team picture at Liverpool.

When he first arrived and was sensational on loan in Finland it was excitement with trepidation considering the standard of football in the nation.

Now Liverpool fans will be wondering if the player will ever make it at Anfield. With his contract expiring next summer 2018-19 could be last-chance saloon.

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Stoke City

Gary Rowett opens the door for Robert Huth’s return to Stoke

Martyn Cooke

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Robert Huth
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Stoke City boss Gary Rowett has opened the door for Robert Huth to return to the club on a permanent basis as the central defender continues to train with the first team squad as he attempts to regain his fitness.

The German was released by Leicester City at the end of last season following a hugely successful three-year stint at the King Power Stadium which included their historic Premier League title triumph in 2016.

Subsequently, he approached Stoke at the start of the summer and has been allowed to train with Rowett’s squad whilst he looks for a new club.

Huth remains a popular figure at the Bet365 Stadium having made over 150 appearances for The Potters over the period of half-a-decade following a £5 million transfer from Middlesbrough in 2009.

The 33-year-old formed a dominant central defensive partnership with Ryan Shawcross that provided the solid foundation on which the club’s modern success was built.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The notion of Huth re-signing for Stoke is a romantic concept, one that many Stoke supporters will be keen to see, and Rowett told the Stoke Sentinel that the door is still open for the German defender.

“He’s coming to train. We’ll see how it is for both parties and we’ll assess it as we go along … We’ll try to help him and that’s where we are at the moment. I don’t think there’s any real rush to make a decision.”

“There’s no strings attached for either party but come in and train, we’ll get you involved – we’re a little bit short in terms of numbers in that area anyway.”

Stoke are currently short of central defensive options following the departures of Kevin Wimmer (on loan to Hannover 96), Marc Muniesa (who has signed for Girona) and Kurt Zouma (who returned to Chelsea following the conclusion of his loan spell) as the club adapts to life outside the Premier League.

With that in mind, Huth’s availability as a free agent and his pre-existing standing within the club makes him an attractive option as Rowett continues to re-mould his squad in preparation for the new season. He has already featured heavily in Stoke’s early pre-season activities and fixtures whilst he is also likely to be joining the club on their tour of Germany.

However, Rowett is right to be cautious about signing the German defender.

Huth did not make a single appearance for Leicester last season as he struggled with a string of injuries and fell considerably down the pecking order at the King Power Stadium whilst, at 33 years of age, he is stepping into the twilight of his career.

Could he realistically adapt to the physical demands of the Championship where there is a requirement to play two matches most weeks as part of a demanding fixture schedule?

Furthermore, Stoke should be looking to the future rather than attempting to recreate previous glories.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Whilst Huth remains a legend in the eyes of supporters he would only provide a short-term solution and will undoubtedly return as a very different player than the one that last played at the Bet365 Stadium in 2015.

Rowett is quite rightly looking to bring in a new generation of young, fresh and hungry talent which will be led by new signing Oghenekaro Etebo, Nigeria’s 21-year-old World Cup star. Does Huth fit within those parameters? Probably not.

Whilst Huth’s return may be a somewhat romantic notion that would certain provide a short-term solution to the club’s lack of defensive cover, on a practical level which looks at the long-term in would leave much to be desired.

Ultimately, much may depend, as it so often does in football, on money.

Stoke have already made significant moves in the transfer market following the arrivals of Etebo and Benik Afobe whilst they have been linked with a string of other big-money signings.

Without the safety net of Premier League TV revenue the signing of Huth on a free transfer could allow Rowett to focus his investment on strengthening other areas of the team.

So the door is certainly open for Huth to return on a permanent basis, although Rowett will need to decide whether his focus is on the short-term or long-term future of the club.

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