Welcome back to Don't look back in anger,
the only preview on this site (or any site) that uses a time machine. Today, we head back to March 14, 2015 to take a look at the last time we met Sunderland. Strap yourselves in folks, and enjoy the ride!
The last time we met
One month into Tim Sherwood's Aston Villa reign, the Villans headed to the Stadium of Light to face a struggling Sunderland side. So bleak were the circumstances for Sunderland, they were even pondering a change of stadium name to the Stadium of Darkness. Things were that bad. 19th place Aston Villa then turned up and beat them 4-0, resulting in Sunderland manager Gus Poyet's dismissal. Poyet was replaced by Dutchman Dick Advocaat, who just about managed to save the North Eastern club from relegation. So really, Aston Villa did them a favour by smashing them. Go figure.
The writing was on the wall for poor Gus during the game, after Villa scored their third goal on 37 minutes, much of 45,000 in attendance left, sparing themselves from an even more farcical display in the second half. The hosts were down to ten men following the break, but for entirely unexpected reasons. Swedish midfielder Seb Larsson didn't actually emerge for the second half for a few minutes, for no apparent reason.
To be fair to Villa, the result didn't just stem from the Mackems sheer incompetence. Leandro Bacuna and Charles N'Zogbia were dangerous throughout, and Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor were clinical, scoring two each. The result, just a week after Villa did the double over West Brom showed us the full potential of Tim Sherwood as manager, and the result was key in terms of Villa securing their Premier League survival. We also saw 16 year old Rushian Hepburn-Murphy make his senior debut, giving fans a glimpse of the young talent that Villa have in their development sides.
What happened next?
As I touched upon above, Dick Advocaat took over the helm at Sunderland, and proved to be as good a saviour as our Tim, as he helped the team to wins over Everton, Southampton and a crucial 1-0 win over Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby. Sunderland ended up finishing in 16th, one place higher than Villa. Despite the better league finish, Aston Villa got to the FA Cup Final and Sunderland didn't, so the Midlanders had that going for themselves.
Last time, Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor supplied the goals. Obviously, that poses a bit of a dilemma for Tim Sherwood ahead of this weeks' fixture. At this rate, Liverpool striker Christian Benteke is more likely to score for Villa than Gabby, so the goals will have to come from somewhere else this time around. For Villa to replicate last season's success, Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew will need to start firing.
Whilst Aston Villa have been exceptionally busy this transfer window, Sunderland have been much quieter. Too quiet if you ask Dick Advocaat,who basically slammed his boss, club Chairman Ellis Short for not making enough funds available. This leaves Sunderland with a similar squad to the side that struggled last season. Advocaat was initially set to leave the club at the end of last season, and was understandably emotional as the club secured survival.
Pictured: Dick Advocaat after Sunderland secured survival.
Pictured: Dick Advocaat remembered that Sebastian Coates, Wes Brown and John O'Shea make up the Sunderland backline.
So, yeah, Sunderland's defence is a weak spot for sure. But Aston Villa haven't exactly been hot in front of goal so far this season. This could make for a frustrating, sloppy and mistake filled game this Saturday.
Villa's defence has been mostly solid so far this year, and Sunderland have struggled to score against Villa in recent seasons. In fact, the last time that Sunderland scored past Brad Guzan in the league was in April 2013, in a game that Villa won 6-1. This gives Villa cause to be optimistic, but of course, nothing is guaranteed in this crazy crazy world. It's not just the mystic madness of the universe that Villa need to be worried about, Jermaine Defoe is probably the only in-form player for Sunderland, and he is capable of scoring from half chances. Villa need to be careful with him.
It's never boring when Villa play Sunderland, so here's hoping for a bit more madness. Under Tim Sherwood, that seems to be a given. Oh, and just a final thing, here are directions to Villa Park. Don't worry Seb Larsson, here at 7500 to Holte, we've got your back. Thanks for reading!