Sunderland-West Brom Preview
Enter Big Sam.
Desperate to save their already flagging season, Sunderland have deemed the dogmatic Sam Allardyce as their latest saviour to escape the drop.
Allardyce’s first task will be to solve his friend Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion in what’s expected to be a rugged affair at The Hawthorns on Saturday.
Sunderland (0-3-5) and Newcastle are the only winless teams remaining in the Premier League, so it should come as no surprise they’re both rooted to the bottom of the table.
The Black Cats are quite familiar with the bottom three spots, spending much of the past three seasons there before barely pulling clear at the end.
Now, Allardyce will try to become the latest manager to pull off the stunt on the Wearside, one that former boss Dick Advocaat claimed wasn’t going to happen.
A frustrated Advocaat quit the post after Sunderland wasted a two-goal lead to settle for a 2-all draw with West Ham on Oct. 3.
Big Sam, however, felt there was reason for optimism.
"I was thinking that the big relief for the club is to get that first win; I was watching the game against West Ham and I thought that was going to be it," Allardyce told the team’s official website. "Getting that first win and getting that hump off your back is very important and unfortunately it didn’t quite happen as it should have done.
"The encouraging thing was the performance and our ultimate goal is getting that first three points as quickly as possible because it relieves a huge amount of pressure on the players."
Perhaps facing a familiar foe could be just what Allardyce needs to get his tenure off to a strong start.
West Brom (2-2-4) has been outscored 9-4 while going 0-1-3 at home. The club wasn’t any better at Crystal Palace on Oct. 3, falling 2-0 to lose three on the trot in all competitions dating to a 1-0 victory at Aston Villa on Sept. 19.
"I know Tony Pulis very well and he works his team in terms of their discipline exceptionally well," Allardyce said. "They are very tight at the back and they concede very few goals, so I would say to the team that they have to be patient.
"My philosophy is to always use different tactics every week depending on who we are playing against, because we have to find out what the strengths and weaknesses are of the opposition and then work on how we can expose those weaknesses and nullify those strengths."
Right now, scoring isn’t at all a strength for the Baggies. Their six league goals match Watford and Newcastle for the fewest in the Premier League.
Pulis has a solution, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Big Sam – or anyone.
"I don’t think we’ve got enough crosses in, in any of the games," Pulis said. "We need to get more off the sides of the pitch … to create more opportunities to get our strikers to score."
Saido Berahino and Salomon Rondon are the only forwards who have scored a goal for West Brom, combining for three. However, they both failed to get a shot on target against Palace as the Baggies managed only two.
That’s likely to change against Sunderland, who have conceded a league-high 18 goals and 25 in 10 games across all competitions.
Pulis, though, isn’t counting on that to continue.
"Sam will go in there and he’ll certainly shake it up and spin it ’round," Pulis said. "He’s got a great record. Obviously, he did a wonderful job at West Ham, and I don’t think he got the credit that he deserves."