Footy Extras

2016/17 Liverpool Premier League Opposition Preview: Sunderland

Perennial relegation candidates Sunderland are the latest in line as we preview Liverpool’s 2016/17 Premier League opponents.

Sunderland head into the new season as favourites for the drop, painting their campaign in gloom, with the departure of Sam Allardyce compounding this.

Allardyce left to take up the role of England boss, with former Everton and Manchester United manager David Moyes assuming his duties on Wearside.

Moyes will be hoping to restore his flagging reputation at the Stadium of Light, and push Sunderland up the table and possibly secure a mid-table finish in 2016/17.

Supporter Q&A

To gain an insight into Sunderland’s summer preparations and their hopes for 2016/17, we spoke to Gavin Henderson of Roker Report to get the Black Cats’ view ahead of the new season.

Firstly, what are your thoughts on Sunderland ahead of the new season?

I’m fairly optimistic. From January onwards—when Sam Allardyce strengthened the core of our side with quality players—we’ve been good. Nothing special, but steady and capable of winning games.

The biggest thing that Allardyce left behind was a well-drilled, organised, fit and together squad of players. We’ve had an immensely strong pre-season—we didn’t lose any of our six games—and that gives us a platform to start the proper football much better than we usually do.

David Moyes isn’t a mug, and I think he’ll do well at Sunderland.

And how have you rated Moyes’ work in the transfer market so far?

I’m not sure just how much Moyes has been able to impart himself in this respect, but Papy Djilobodji is a sensible signing in my eyes. He’s a good age, athletic, left-footed (more important than you might think) and versatile.

Everybody knows that we need more players, but Moyes hasn’t really been here long enough to show what we can do just yet.

I get the feeling we’ll see players come in that can make Sunderland look and feel more like that Everton side which was so successful under Moyes tenure. Some pace out wide, some grit at the back. I’ll be happy to see it.

What is Moyes’ likely first-choice lineup for the new season, and where do you see them finishing?

Well, with the players we currently have it’s pretty easy to answer this as we have hardly any backup players.

Vito Mannone will be our first-choice ‘keeper, and he’s done well to fight off competition from Jordan Pickford. The defence picks itself: Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul have forged an outstanding partnership, whilst Billy Jones is our only right-back at present.

In midfield, we’ll likely see the return of Yann M’Vila in the coming days and he’ll pair up with Jan Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole.

Up top, Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini will flank last season’s top scorer Jermain Defoe.

Onto Liverpool, what are your thoughts on their chances this season, and where do you predict they will finish in the Premier League?

I think Klopp has made typical Klopp signings—unspectacular yet effective—and I think he’ll do well, especially without the pressure of European football.

That said, the league is full of good teams now and you just know that one or two of them are going to underwhelm—that is where Liverpool need to mosey on in and take advantage.

I think a top-six finish would be realistic for you.

Stadium of Light

Capacity: 49,000

When we play there: January 2

Away fans’ pub: N/A

Gavin’s advice: “Visit our fan zone outside the ground. There’s plenty to do, plenty to eat and plenty to drink. If the weather is good it’s a nice place to be before the game.”

Sunderland, 2016/17

Players IN: Papy Djilobodji, from Chelsea – £8 million

Players OUT: Emanuele Giaccherini, to Napoli – £2 million; Santiago Vergini, to Boca Juniors – £1.5 million; Steven Fletcher, to Sheffield Wednesday – free; Danny Graham, to Blackburn Rovers – free; Wes Brown, released; Steve Harper, released

Gavin’s Best XI: Mannone; Jones, Kone, Kaboul, Van Aanholt; M’Vila, Kirchhoff, Cattermole; Khazri, Borini, Defoe

2016/17 Predictions

TIA’s Sunderland Predicted Finish: 16th

Where Gavin says Sunderland will finish: 13th

Where Gavin says Liverpool will finish: 6th

Who Gavin predicts to win the Premier League: Manchester United

Loaning the Belgian to Sunderland could save his Old Trafford career

It seems that the ghosts of managers in United’s past, present and maybe future have been circling the news recently. Jose Mourinho’s revolution continues at an extremely high pace as the football from Louis van Gaal’s era is washed out to leave only his excellent foundations. United fans will certainly hope there is a qualified managerial route for the departed Ryan Giggs to eventually return. But most people have removed all thoughts of the disastrous 10 months United faced under David Moyes.

The Scot led United to a seventh place finish, most notably almost beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League but falling to a quarterfinal exit. His uninspired football was still more adventurous than van Gaal’s, but the Dutchman had an excellent record in big fixtures that endeared him to United fans. The undoubted best move of his tenure was debuting then 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj, who glimmered in an Anthony Martial-esque fashion, pulling better numbers than Cristiano Ronaldo’s first season at the club at the same age.

Raheem Sterling’s seven goals and eight assists in 35 appearances in his second Premier League campaign were enough to earn him a stunning £49 million move to Manchester City, and Januzaj was universally believed to be better than the Englishman a year prior, which is enough to explain the potential. Januzaj’s wide range of techniques made him everything a modern attacking midfielder should be, so much so that it is still impossible to determine his best role. Since Moyes’ departure, Januzaj has made fewer appearances in two years than in those 10 months.

The retrospectively brain-dead signings of Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria, combined with the stunning resurgence of Ashley Young forced Januzaj into nothing more than a role starring in the U21’s for the vast majority of the season. Subsequently, a bizarre loan move to Borussia Dortmund, home of arguably the best-attacking midfielders in the world failed for stunningly obvious reasons, and upon return, he was cup-tied and could not represent United in the Europa League, which was the only place where he would even stand a chance of game time.

Louis van Gaal, Thomas Tuchel and now Jose Mourinho, three top-class managers, have failed to get the same spark out of Januzaj that the now-comedic Moyes could. The rescue point of Januzaj’s career would have to be for him to double his 2013-14 Premier League tally of four goals and four assists while maintaining the same flair that he made his own in that season. It seems an impossible mission for a player who seems to have disciplinary problems, but if there’s any place for him to find his best form and position, it will have to be Sunderland. With Moyes joining the perennial relegation-fighting Black Cats and declaring his interest in Januzaj, now is the time to make a move that could prove more useful than any other this summer for the following reasons.

Firstly, Januzaj needs Premier League game-time, not just the ability to step on a football pitch. Sunderland is the one club where he will be guaranteed this. The signing of Jeremain Lens didn’t pan out nearly as well as expected, while Adam Johnson is no longer a footballer for obvious reasons. Sunderland is in need of an attacking threat not named Jermain Defoe, despite the fact they only scored 1 less than United in the Premier League last season. If that doesn’t guarantee him playing time, consider this – at United, Moyes gave him time over the likes of Ashley Young, Nani, Antonio Valencia and Shinji Kagawa, all four far more skilled than Sunderland’s current crop.

Secondly, Januzaj at Sunderland would not only be fighting for his Manchester United future but also his future in the Premier League. When sent back to Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha found a home in the Premier League despite the fact he was clearly surplus to requirements at United. Mourinho loaned Ryan Bertrand to Southampton in his time at Chelsea, and Bertrand was in the PFA Team of the Year there despite failing to find a home at Chelsea. Even United’s maligned Tom Cleverley found a great home at Everton in the Premier League after a wonderful spell at Aston Villa where many believed he could even return to United. If he goes on loan to Sunderland, Januzaj will be raising his market value and considering his Premier League options.

Finally, Januzaj will have something concrete to fight for, because he will need to play a part in Sunderland’s ability to (once again) avoid relegation. Avoiding relegation for Sunderland is as big as winning the league for United, both financially and in the eyes of their fans. He will also, once again, be fighting for his place in the Belgian national team, where he failed to impress at the World Cup in 2014. If he can earn his way back into the Belgian national team, he will find a place in the elite of football regardless of where it is. Bringing success to Sunderland would be an achievement on both a personal level and for Moyes’ Sunderland.

Sunderland targeting hitman Andre Gray, Burnley want almost £30m

According to the Daily Mail, Sunderland are eyeing up a move for Burnley striker Andre Gray – but the Clarets want almost £30m for their star man.

Gray, 25, joined Burnley in a big-money deal last summer having hit 20 goals in 52 games for Brentford, and certainly lived up to expectations last season.

Gray smashed 23 goals to fire Burnley to promotion, establishing himself as one of the top English strikers around having starred with his combination of pace, power and deadly finishing.

Gray has been tipped to have a big season for Burnley this term, but it seems that one of the Clarets’ Premier League rivals are keen to lure him away from Turf Moor.

The Daily Mail report that Sunderland are keen to sign Gray, with new manager David Moyes believed to be a huge fan of the striker.

However, the same report claims that Burnley aren’t keen to sell Gray, and may ask for up to £30m for his signature, given that Brentford have 20% sell-on clause in the deal.

Everton and Tottenham are also believed to have looked at Gray, but Burnley manager Sean Dyche doesn’t want to lose his key man before the season starts.

New Sunderland boss Moyes may receive funds to spend, but it’s hard to see him being given £30m to splash on Gray, who has yet to play in the Premier League.

Expect to see Sunderland sign a striker before this month’s transfer deadline, given that Jermain Defoe has little support around him, but a move to sign Gray would be a huge surprise given that asking price.