Going into the match, Bilic spoke in great admiration of the Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat. He is “vastly experienced” to quote the gaffer. Advocaat has managed six national teams – UAE, South Korea, Serbia, Russia, Belgium and his very own Holland. He has had a very accomplished career to say the least. The Dutchman even managed to keep Sunderland up last season and was subsequently due to leave the club. Now, there is speculation that the Sunderland manager may leave the Black Cats with his side firmly rooted in the relegation zone. Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the age of 71; Dick Advocaat is 68. Despite Super Slav’s respect for him, it was his job to “make his position worse.” Moreover, the gaffer was insistent not to let the squad get complacent with the stunning away record – the players have been in too many Spencer FC videos anyway.
What I find hard to explain is our bizarre frame of mind. We have beaten teams we expect to lose to, and lose to teams we expect to win against. I feel the reason why we are not living up to our potential against teams like Norwich and Sunderland is because they are giving it a real go. We decided to put Reece Oxford on against Arsenal… on the opening day no less! It was a risky strategy putting on a teenager on against a team that has a habit of frequently beating us. Against the slim odds, it worked – and how! Normally, managers tend to put in-form players straight into the starting XI, and those who haven’t lived up to expectations off. Fabio Borini didn’t play well against Manchester United. It is a well known fact that Dutch managers don’t tend to change their tactics very much during matches when losing – I guess that makes Wenger Dutch. Whether this can be applied going into a match is highly dubious. Nevertheless, Borini found himself in the starting XI against us. Unfortunate to say he played very well.
Jermain Defoe was rested on the bench for the entirety of the match. Even the midfield battle was getting rather exciting with our midfielders struggling to get passes forward. I highly doubt there was much of a tactical reason behind playing Borini over Defoe. Unlike Sunderland, Norwich were pushing on trying to bury it beyond beggars belief: they nearly succeeded in winning but for their poor defending in set pieces. Sometimes, there are factors that are out of our control. We can alter our tactics to match what the opposition has planned, but in the Premier League, having a quality line-up doesn’t win you all matches. We have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City. More recently, Southampton defeated Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge (AKA The Former Bus Depot.)
The Mackems and Geordies haven’t won a single match this season. I was looking at the two teams matches in close synchronicity with Newcastle playing Manchester City. Both teams started the better in their matches with the Black Cats scoring a goal off the training ground from Stephen Fletcher. As much as I hated watching the goal in replay, the sidefoot connection was exquisite. Most of the teams won against us this season have scored wonderful goals which have given Adrián and the defence no chance – Fletcher’s goal was no exception. Mitrovic has gained himself a bit of a reputation for his poor discipline in English football. In the Belgian Pro League, the Serbian international was renown for his heading abilities. Unsurprisingly, he headed a ball into the net to lead against the Citizens. This meant that both Tyne and Wear side teams were leading much to everyone’s shock. Newcastle, like Sunderland, should have taken their chances and got that elusive 3-0 lead which no one has managed to beat.
The best win came from Leicester who were 2-0 against the Villans to win 3-2. A poor back pass from Payet should have been kicked away by Reid. Much to West Ham’s dismay, he attempted to slide the ball away in the same manner Tomkins did against the Canaries. We have made 4 errors leading to goals this season – that was the 5th. M’Vila passed it forward to Jeremain (not Defoe) Lens who chipped the keeper who was slightly off his line. To be fair, Adrián couldn’t have moved back because the move escalated so quickly. The last time I can recall a goal being conceded from the Spaniard coming off his line was a David Beckham-esque goal from Wayne Rooney with the man himself present at Upton Park. So with 2-0 Sunderland and 1-0 Newcastle, fates were about to change. Victor Moses beat three Sunderland defenders to get a ground cross in for Jenkinson who scored just before HT to make it 2-1. Aguero made it 1-1 in the 42nd minute.
Before the match, West Ham hadn’t scored more than twice in any of the last 16 away to Sunderland. That is not a typo. We came back against Norwich (just!), but that didn’t mean we were going to get another draw against the Mackems. The second half is underway: enter Sergio Aguero. In the second half, he scores not one, two, three, but FOUR. So, in total, he has scored 5 goals in 20 minutes. He couldn’t get 5 in 9, but 5 in 20 is a BPL record for the fastest time to score 5 minutes. Sensational! Hats off to the Argentine! He received the Golden Boot last season, and looks to add another to his collection. A De Bruyne goal in between made it 6-1 to City in what was the one of the most unexpected turnarounds I have ever witnessed.
We should have won the game by really pushing on at 2-2. We are the best away team with results to prove it against the side that was bottom before the match started. I am bitterly disappointed we didn’t get a win against Leicester, Bournemouth, Norwich or Sunderland, but am happy with the three elusive away wins. I hate to say this but a Sam Allardyce team would have won against at least two of the teams above. Then again, a team ran by Big Sam would have had a superb 18 games and a meagre 18 games, so all in all, Bilic all the way! Advocaat deserved a hug too for all he has done for Wearside and football in general. Dick was very magnanimous having drawn against us.
In other sporting news, England are out of the Rugby World Cup after having lost 33-13 to Australia. It is the first time that a host nation has gone out at the group stage of the tournament failing to even make the knockout stages. Getting to write this blog on a Saturday night is a dream come true! It means I can watch all the sports competitions today. The sports that await Sofa Sunday (Super Sunday should be renamed for today) is too intense! The biggest matches will be on tomorrow going into the night. The NFL is on, as is the PDC World Grand Prix which will commence at 19:00 with Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis against Barney on SS3 and many other big darting legends from the Order of Merit. Be sure to incinerate any timetables for this one time jam-packed entertainment bonanza!
P.S. Come on James Wade!