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Sunderland AFC 2011-12


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#1 finnVT

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 10:08 AM

So, time to start this one up I suppose as the transfer list starts getting long.

Last year's 10th place finish was probably a small disappointment given where they were around Christmas, but the utter collapse after that made relegation actually seem like a possibility. Ending up 10th then, taking a larger view, doesn't seem so bad, and continues the steady rise from 16th to 13th to 10th over the past 3 seasons. In addition to selling Bent in january, SAFC have sold young English midfielder Jordan Henderson this summer to Liverpool for something in the neighborhood of 20 (was supposed to include N'gog, but seems like that part may have fizzled out). As much fun as he could be to watch at times last season, have to say that seems like a pretty high price, but he's really young, and English, which seems to have driven the price up a lot.

So with pockets lined from these two sales, Sunderland have been pretty active in rebuilding the squad so far this summer. Apparently Connor Wickham, Ipswitch's England u18 striker, is on his way for 8m (rising based on performance), as well as 20yo Korean strike Ji Dong Won. Nice to see some youth injected up top to go with Gyan. They've also gotten Seb Larsson and Craig Gardner to help replace henderson in the midfield, and Kieran Westwood from Coventry at GK. Then there's the strange triple-bid from Man U, reportedly for Wes Brown, Darren Gibson and John O'shea. As far as I can tell, they reached terms with Man U, but haven't actually worked out deals with these 3 yet, so hard to know what's going to happen.

Other than Henderson, Riveros has been sent to Turkey after a pretty disappointing season, and a few fringe types are out of contract (e.g., Zenden). Without the Man U trio then, I think the depth chart currently looks something like this:

GK Craig Gordon
GK Kieran Westwood
GK Simon Mignolet

RB/LB Phil Bardsley
CB Michael Turner
CB Titus Bramble
CB Anton Ferdinand
LB George McCarthy
Def Marcos Angeleri

RM Seb Larsson
RM/LM Steed Malbranque
RM/RB Ahmed Elmohamady
CM Lee Cattermole
CM Craig Gardner
CM/AM Stephane Sessegnon
CM David Meyler
CM/LM/LB Kieran Richardson

FW Asamoah Gyan
FW Connor Wickham
FW Ji Dong Won
FW Frazier Campbell

I've bolded the guys I'd expect to be the regular starters, but who really knows at this point. And I have no clue who lines up at LB. Maybe Bardsley shifts over there with Elmohamady or Ferdinand lining up on the right. Or maybe they revisit the Richardson at LB adventure. Or maybe (hopefully) they've still got another signing in them. Should also be interesting to see what ends up happening at GK. I've always liked Gordon, but he seems unable to stay healthy. Mignolet seemed like a capable backup last season, so I'm not sure that they would have gotten Westwood just to back up Gordon. But Gordon's in the last year of his contract, so maybe they figure they need to start figuring out his replacement.

So should be interesting. I was very impressed with Sessegnon last season after he came over, and I'm hopeful that with Gardner and Larsson the midfield is much improved this season. It's nice to have some young talent up front, but can't really argue that this group is better than the Bent/Gyan duo they started with last season. And defense still looks like a mystery to me, with Onouha's loan ending. I don't really mind Bramble/Turner starting, but there's not much depth there, and even less on the wings.

Season starts Aug 13th @ Liverpool!

#2 Zomp


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Posted 30 June 2011 - 11:00 AM

From what I've read, Gibson is a definite. Not sure about Wes Brown and O'Shea but they can all be useful players.

#3 finnVT

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 10:14 AM

Well, latest word seems to be that Wes Brown and John O'Shea are signed, but still no word on Gibson. SAFC also announced they've signed David Vaughan from Blackpool.

Will be interesting to see where everyone slots in. Would be nice if O'Shea could nail down LB, but I'm guessing he'll continue to slide around.

#4 finnVT

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 06:27 PM

Sounds like Malbranque definitely off to France, and McCartney probably out somewhere (not that there were much in terms of expectations from him). Angeleri went back to Argentina to deal with a knee injury, and wasn't given a number. By my count, that leaves:

GK Craig Gordon
GK Kieran Westwood
GK Simon Mignolet

RB/LB Phil Bardsley
CB Michael Turner
CB Titus Bramble
CB Anton Ferdinand
Def John O'Shea
Def Wes Brown

RM Seb Larsson
RM/RB Ahmed Elmohamady
CM Lee Cattermole
CM Craig Gardner
CM/AM Stephane Sessegnon
CM/LM/LB Kieran Richardson
MF David Vaughan

FW Asamoah Gyan
FW Connor Wickham
FW Ji Dong Won
FW Frazier Campbell

Along with the youth types (Meyler, Colback, Cook). In my fairly uninformed opinion, that looks like certainly a deeper squad than they've had in recent years, although I'm not sure how much better the top end has gotten. Bruce has talked about wanting to use a 4-4-1-1 with Sess playing off Gyan up front, but I suspect there'll be a lot of rotating and shifting of formation.

#5 goyangfc


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Posted 13 August 2011 - 05:21 PM

Ji Dong-Won's PL debut today (eighth Korean player in PL history). I thought he showed some hints of success. He didn't have any big shots, but he made some good plays. It will be interesting to see if he can survive and score some goals.

#6 finnVT

  • 1,146 posts

Posted 21 September 2011 - 11:28 AM

What a mess to follow Sunderland...

First, there the bizarre Gyan saga. Seemingly gets convinced that bigger clubs want him at a much higher wage, starts to cause trouble, and ends up getting sent on loan to the UAE for a ridiculous fee (6 for the season, not sure how much to make it permanent, but one can only imagine it's sizable). Word is his wages there are as high as 200k/week, or something like 10x what Sunderland was paying him. I can't honestly say I'd turn down that big a wage hike, but it's a strange situation, moving to such a smaller league at this point in his career.

So Sunderland brings in Nicklas Bendtner on loan from Arsenal to take his place. Gyan wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire, so maybe it's not a huge drop, but I certainly was happier last fall with Bent/Gyan/Welbeck than now with Bendtner/Wong/Wickham. Certainly some upside in the latter group, but it's a bit scary.

Then they get off to a rocky start, though not a totally unpredictable one. Drawing @ Liverpool was a solid result, but losing at home to Newcastle never makes anyone happy. Drawing @ swansea was a minor disappointment, and the home loss to Chelsea was too bad, but not surprising. Any of these four results in isolation probably wouldn't have been devastating (though the Newcastle one would still leave a mark), but having all 4 in a row, and to start the season, had everyone up in arms, with calls for Bruce/Quinn's heads.

All of which made Saturday's 4-0 win at home vs Stoke a bit cathartic. A thorough trouncing, and looking good in the process. (Of course even that couldn't be done without controversy, as captain Cattermole was left out). And all of a sudden, 5 games in (two of those vs liverpool/chelsea) with 5 points and +2 goal difference, and two very winnable games coming up @ norwich and home vs west brom. If it had been a loss to liverpool and a draw to newcastle, instead of vice versa, I suspect people would have been pretty happy with this start, or at least considered it only a minor disappointment (7 points instead of 5 was probably the best reasonable expectation to this point).

So will be interesting to see how things evolve over the new few weeks. Wins against norwich/west brom probably leave everyone feeling like they've turned a corner. If they can only manage 1-2 points, the shouting will probably grow louder.

#7 SoxFanInCali


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Posted 30 November 2011 - 01:08 PM

Steve Bruce has been fired, according to a tweet from Soccernet.

#8 ethangl

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 01:50 PM

Mission accomplished, Agent Bruce. You may return to base.

#9 finnVT

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 06:28 PM

And I was doing such a good job pretending this thread didn't exist.

#10 Tartan

  • 341 posts

Posted 20 January 2012 - 03:25 AM

For anyone who has seen their games, has O'Neill changed tactics significantly? Is their play sustainable to any degree, or is it a flash in the pan?

#11 finnVT

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 10:43 AM

I've seen probably half since he's taken over, though I can't really give a great tactical analysis. Some things seem pretty similar (mostly still using a lone striker up front with Sess playing in an advanced mid role, though Sess is pretty clearly their best player at the moment, so can't really complain too much.. not sure i'd want him moving back, which i'm sure would happen if they used more 442), but some nice player changes. McClean has really come on playing on the left in midfield, and has given them much more from an attacking point of view than i've seen recently. They been working some of their mids in at fullback too (mostly out of necessity from injuries), and Colback and Gardner have done pretty well there, again given them more attacking than I'm used to seeing, at least from Bardsley.

Bendtner's looked pretty meh to me a lot of the time, but they don't seem to want to let Ji start up there alone (probably for good reason-- he's been good in spurts, but not sure he's ready for that). Hopefully with Wickham and Campbell getting healthy they get a few more options up front, though. As for whether they can sustain it... I tend to think they were woefully underperforming at the start of the season, and their recent play is closer to what they should have been doing all along. Not that I think they can keep beating the likes of Man City, but I think they are more like a 8-10th team than a 15-17th one. And given that they've been doing it with some pretty key injuries lately (Wes Brown, Mignolet/Gordon, Campbell, Turner...), I don't really see why they can't keep it going, or even improve as they get some of them back.