If I hear “form goes out of the window in a derby” one more time I am really going to lose it. This to me is a thinly veiled attempt to protect ourselves from a seemingly negative result at the weekend against our bitter rivals Sunderland. On Sunday we travel to the Stadium of ‘Light’, and I for one will be very disappointed if we do not come back with all three points.
While we have not electrified the league with our performances this season, we have been decent, and we even seem to be improving. Some of our better players are stepping up the mark, most notably Cabaye, and even past scapegoats are putting in good performances. Tiote was sensational at the weekend, and Mike Williamson has been solid, if unspectacular. In contrast, Sunderland have been abysmal. In fact, that gives abysmal a bad name. Sunderland have statistically made the worst start ever to a Premier League campaign, which has culminated in an early season sacking of their manager Paolo di Canio. Out with the relatively new, in with the even newer. Gus Poyet has taken charge of the unwashed and received a baptism of fire when Swansea spanked them 4-0 in their first game, so he is under pressure from the off going into this massive game.
I don’t care if this is a derby and someone tries to convince me that the form book goes out of the window. I look at Sunderland’s likely 11, and I look at ours. If we do not win this game, and show a signal of intent for making up for the disastrous home performance in our last game against Sunderland, then questions need to be asked. We do not have the excuse of injuries, as our only first team injury is Coloccini. While this is significant, especially given how M’biwa is suspended, we are bolstered by the return of Steven Taylor, who should be chomping at the bit to atone for the defeat last season. We do not have the excuse of ‘we’re in a bad run of form and confidence is low’ as we are currently on 11 points, and have taken 4 points from our last 2 games. We no longer have the excuse of ‘our French players do not realise how important this game is.’ They all know now, especially since Sunderland came and spanked us at St James’.
The fact of the matter is, the form book does not go out the window. One team is usually better than the other. If the lesser team wins it is because a) they played out of their skins, b) got lucky or c) the better team underperformed. Last season we underperformed. Big time. If Sunderland are up for a fight and end up beating us, the question has to be, why are our player NOT up for the fight?
As I alluded to in my last article, Pardew has managed to build up some momentum with some positive results, now it is time to capitalise on that by going to the Stadium of Light, atoning for the mistakes of last season, and coming home with three points in the bag. Given how we have tough league games coming up against Spurs and Chelsea, as well as a tricky cup match against Manchester City, three points on Sunday would be invaluable. Can our boys deliver?
What do you think? Will we make up for last season’s defeat? Will we allow Poyet’s team to get one over on us, just like we let di Canio? Have some of our players learned the importance of this game? I’d love to hear your views.