How Big Sam has changed Sunderland’s fortunes around
4th December 2015

Sunderland have won back-to-back games in the Premier League after beating Crystal Palace and Stoke City. This has seen them jump out of the relegation zone and above rivals Newcastle. But what has changed since Big Sam took over?

Well, it has taken time but Allardyce is slowly finding his best team. It looked a distant dream that we’d even win another game this season after the 6-2 defeat away to Everton, but Big Sam has managed to turn things around. A narrow defeat to Southampton followed, but apart from a moment of madness from Black Cats favourite Yann M’Vila, Sunderland looked pretty comfortable in defence. The only thing missing was that cutting edge going forward.

Fast forward to the Crystal Palace match and I was baffled to see that Allardyce has opted for the 3-5-2 formation that hadn’t worked too well at Everton. However, with O’Shea and Kaboul back in the fold, the three centre-backs looked a lot more comfortable than the out of position Billy Jones, and the liability that is Wes Brown. Jermaine Defoe was reunited up front with Steven Fletcher and the pair caused a lot of problems with Defoe getting the goal to seal the match.

23 November 2015 - Barclays Premier League - Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Jermain Defoe of Sunderland celebrates the win - Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

Jermain Defoe celebrates Sunderland’s win at Crystal Palace.

Patrick van Aanholt also seems to be coming into form and could really thrive under this formation. Everyone knows the wing-back prefers going forwards rather than backwards, but it would appear that Big Sam has finally taught PVA to track back. Against Stoke he seemed a lot more composed in defence and was rewarded going forwards with the first goal of the game on 82 minutes.

That boy Duncan Watmore impressed all afternoon against Stoke and deserved his goal just two minutes later. Again, the tricky winger got at defenders and caused a lot of problems. As I’ve said before, Watmore could be a key player in the side this year and could be one of the factors for a successful campaign. The England Under-21 international has been a breath of fresh air since his introduction and has quickly become a real crowd favourite. As the chant goes: “For Brazil he should play, Duncan Watmore.”

But, as always, as soon as Sunderland have any reason to be positive, someone comes and puts a negative twist on the situation. Adrian Durham recently said in his column that “Sunderland fans should be prepared for the most unremarkable ride of their lives” under Sam Allardyce. Now, I understand his point but does he really think us fans care that much? We’ve been losing games, conceding goals (some scored by some truly awful footballers) and have been majorly disappointed for what seems like an eternity. Allardyce is just the next man to have his go at the Sunderland job and if it is a boring style of football that is going to see us win games, then so be it.

I would much rather be out of a relegation battle playing boring football than worrying about relegation constantly. It’s not as if the football previously has been that thrilling anyway. I’m sure us Mackems will find a way to shout and sing about something even if the football on the pitch isn’t quite at the standard of Barcelona. Who is Adrian Durham to tell us Sunderland fans what we want?

The December fixtures don’t hold up nicely for Sunderland, but with a new sense of belief in the side we could maybe snatch a few points off the big teams. We have to make sure we aren’t too far adrift come January.

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