Opposition view – Sunderland

We catch up with Rory Fallow from Roker Report ahead of the Swans welcoming Sunderland to the Liberty this weekend…

Rory, how’s your season been so far?

Up until the win away to Bournemouth, it was terrible. There was so plan on the pitch, results were shocking and it looked like we’d be this season’s Aston Villa. Since that win though, the mood has changed dramatically. We’re looking tighter at the back, more organised and dangerous going forward. A big part in it all has been Victor Anichebe getting fit enough to start games. His hold up play is opening up so much space for other players and you can tell Defoe loves playing alongside him. Last weekend against Leicester is hopefully how we’ll look to continue playing – quick play when in possession and constantly pressing the opposition when we’re without it.

There’s a long way to go for us but the fans are 100% more optimistic now, compared to just after Arsenal breezed past us. We have some hope and I’d have snapped your hands off for that back in October.

How did you feel about Sam Allardyce leaving and David Moyes replacing him?

I was pretty gutted to see Sam leave, initially. He was exactly what the club needed and he looked like he’d sort us out and guide us away from relegation battles. Our whole pre season was disrupted due to his England negotiations so by the time Moyes arrived, it meant starting our preparation all over again.

Most were happy with Moyes at first though, he seemed the most logical appointment and we got him in quite quickly, after it was confirmed that Allardyce would be leaving. It didn’t take long for things to turn though as he just seemed to be sending the team out with barely any game plan. We were awful to watch for the first 10 games and supporters felt apathetic, knowing we were in for another one of “those” seasons. Recent games have calmed the waters though and, in fairness, every decision he made against Leicester was spot on. I hope we’re now seeing the proper David Moyes and that this run of form isn’t just fleeting. He’s earning the supporters trust now though, after a poor start.

Were you happy with the business you did in the summer?

A lot of us were disappointed to not bring in Yann M’Vila on a permanent deal, after he shone for us on loan last year. It just got confirmed on Wednesday night that we won’t be pursuing him in January either, which has caused a mild unrest among some sections of the support.In the immediate aftermath of the window though, there didn’t seem to be anyone who was worth getting excited over. In fact, if you dug out some of the responses to when we signed Anichebe on a free, it makes for hilarious reading, since the same people now think he’s god.

Didier Ndong has played most weeks and is starting to settle, he’s a good tackler and works tirelessly off the ball. You could say similar for Papy Djilobodji too, he’s looked much more improved recently but you still feel he might be a bit of a Titus Bramble – Brilliant for 89 minutes and then comes the mistake.

Elsewhere, Jason Denayer is looking a good loan signing since he got moved into a deep lying midfield role. Our high profile loanee, Adnan Januzaj, hasn’t done a lot though and he really needs to start proving himself if he wants to live up to all the hype around him. Even though he’s struggled in a few games, Steven Pienaar added some experience to the side and he was brilliant last week, before being forced off due to a nasty clash of heads. In short, a fairly underwhelming window but with the team now starting to click, it may prove that we’ve done some decent business.

Who have been your star performers and who needs to up their game?

Jermain Defoe is obviously the top boy, his goals always give us a chance. As I said before though, Victor Anichebe has been an absolute revelation since he became fully fit. None of us can believe just how devastating his form has been and if he keeps playing even half as well, that’ll be fine. Our young goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, has been outstanding too. When we were playing poorly, he was keeping the scores respectable and in the wins he’s been producing some match winning saves.

In terms of upping there game, most fans would probably say Lamine Kone. After his transfer saga in the summer (where he almost signed for Everton), he looked a shadow of the player we saw last season. Recent performances have been good though so if he does still want to force a move, I hope he does it by proving how good he is.

The transfer window is approaching, is there money to spend and what positions need improving?

We have no money to spend. If we do want to buy, we’ll have to sell first. That could come from Kone or Wahbi Khazri, given Moyes doesn’t seem to fancy Khazri, but Duncan Watmore being ruled out for the season may mean we can’t afford to risk letting an attacker go. If we could strengthen positions, it would probably be in the spine and just 24 hours ago I would have probably been crossing my fingers to see M’Vila come back!

We’re light on numbers at centre half, so one of them wouldn’t go a miss. We’re also craving a central midfielder who can get us some goals and unlock a defence. Our game plan won’t work without a big striker either so we could do with some cover for Anichebe as well. I’d be surprised if we did bring anyone in though as apparently we don’t even have any spare cash to cover a loan deal.

What do you make of Swansea this season and who are our danger men?

I’m surprised to see you struggling so much. I knew that losing players like Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew would have an impact but I didn’t see you doing so badly. The managerial situation hasn’t helped, with Bradley looking out of his depth and surely you wouldn’t have been doing this badly if you tried to persevere with Guidolin?

The main man we’ll have to keep quiet will be Gylfi Sigurdsson. I think we might be able to restrict him, to some extent, if he’s playing through the middle but he’ll cause us more problems if he’s drifting out wide.

Predict the score and where both teams will finish?

I am confident, I’m not going to lie. I don’t like that confidence though, it’s unnerving. A high scoring game is likely, given both teams defensive records but we have been improving at the back recently. I’ll say 3-1 to Sunderland.

I won’t start predicting we’ll stay up until we’ve put some daylight between us and the bottom three, I still find it hard to even dream of 17th right now. As for The Swans, everything I’ve seen on the field and heard from your fans does suggest you’ll drop. Unless you do our usual trick and just waiting until April to start playing. I genuinely hope you’s stay up though (provided it isn’t at our expense, of course!) as I’ve got a lot of time for Swansea and your fans. So all the best for the season, I just hope you wait until next weekend to start turning things around!