It’s the fixture that all Newcastle and Sunderland fans look for as soon as the fixtures are announced and it’s the one fixture that the fans are excited about, yet fear and dread of the thought of losing to the enemy.
Last season, we drew 1-1 at the Stadium of Light, with Gyan scoring a late equaliser to cancel out Kevin Nolan’s opening goal. Back in October, Sunderland endured a Halloween nightmare at St James’ Park – suffering a 5-1 demolition thanks to a Nolan hat-trick and a brace from Shola Ameobi. After the final whistle, ‘Daydream Believer’ blared out of the tannoys and Newcastle fans sang their hearts out to ‘Cheer up Steve Bruce’, which left Steve Bruce fuming and plotting for revenge.
Before the return fixture at the Stadium of Light, he said “We have got something in store, but just wait until the end,” said Bruce. “It is my choice, but the club are a bit scared of it. I am not telling you what it is. But I would love to get my own back!”. He never got the chance, but will he get the opportunity on Saturday?
Possible line ups
After last week’s poor performance in the first half playing 442 against Arsenal, it could possible that Pardew will opt for a 4411 formation to give an extra man in midfield and the much needed link to our frontline that was missing in the first half against Arsenal. Obertan played well last Saturday with his pace and support and is a strong contender to start against Sunderland.
Stop the crosses
As you can see from above, Sunderland’s central midfield of Cattermole and Colback don’t create many chances. Their purpose is to break up play and pass the ball sideways for Larsson and Elmohamady. In the last game against Liverpool, there was more emphasis to go down the right wing with more attacking passes made to that side (45 v 63), even though a young John Flanangan was starting in the right back role for Liverpool – perhaps Elmohamady is seen as a better attacking option. As a result, Elmohamady made more crosses than Seb Larsson – Larsson on his unnatural side, would have to cut back onto his more comfortable right foot to cross.
Overall, Sunderland played more crosses than the home team (17 v 15), although not many of their crosses from open play were successful. Sessegnon and Gyan are not known for their aerial ability – only one of Gyan’s ten goals last year was from a header and although not all crosses result in headers, at least it is comfortable knowledge that is not an area where neither striker is most prolific in.
With the creative strength coming in from the flanks and neither winger possessing electric pace, it is essential that Danny Simpson – who can be known for backing off attackers – can stick tight to Larsson and block off any crosses attempted. Unfortunately, with Jose Enriqure being sold, we are without a natural left back, so it could mean Ryan Taylor filling in again against the more attacking Elmohamady – although he did a decent job against Arsenal.
Attacking wise, we have the option of playing Obertan behind our main striker, to give us an outlet that can also quickly support our frontline – something that was missing against Arsenal. There is also the option to have Obertan down the right hand side, attacking Keiran Richardson. The midfielder turned defender is probably the weakest link in the Sunderland defence.
Last week, Richardson failed to make any tackles and lost out in 4 out of 5 ground 50/50s – not a one off, as last season he only won 43% of his ground 50/50s. On the other flank, Bardsley is very accomplished – winning 67% of ground duels and winning both tackles he made last weekend. Last season’s statistics show that Bardsley won 62% of ground duels as well. With this in mind, it would make more sense to have more attacks going down the right hand side, especially when Larsson isn’t renowned for his defensive capabilities either – Simpson could have some joy supporting down the right. New summer signing Sylvain Marveaux scored and assisted midweek in a reserve match and his pace and trickery could be relied upon should be need another option.
We have several striking options for our lone striker (if we do indeed play one), but neither stick out as the obvious choice. Ameobi has a good record against Sunderland – 6 goals, although two have been penalties and only one has been at the Stadium of Light. Demba Ba had an unimpressive debut last week, but didn’t get the support he needed. He scored 7 goals from 12 games last season for West Ham, so has a better strike rate than Ameobi (6 in 28 games). Best has a decent scoring rate (6 in 11 starts) and has the better success rates in ground and aerial duels compared to the other two strikers. A bit of fight is something essential on derby day.
Which ever option Pardew goes for, I think it’ll be a very close match with not much between the two teams. I think it’ll be a very tight draw with no fingernails left.