Sam Allardyce is hours away from his first game as manager of Sunderland, which means life is about to — if not already — get a lot tougher for the Black Cats, who currently sit 19th in the Premier League with zero wins from their opening eight games.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
One player for whom it’s particularly becoming “put up or shut up” time is Jermain Defoe, the club’s highest weekly wage earner. On Thursday, Allardyce singled out the 33-year-old striker as a key under-performer (two goals scored) to begin the season.
As Allardyce sees it, he can only select a misfiring striker for so long before he becomes a detriment to the rest of the team — quotes from the Guardian:
“There is always a place for a goalscorer but you cannot just be a goalscorer today so I don’t know if that’s something we need to address with Jermain.”
“You analyze everyone’s performance and you look at the contribution they make on a game-to-game basis and you can judge with your eyes as well with your experience. Then you come to a decision on who is best equipped at that moment in time of playing in your team.
“Players who don’t play generally don’t play because they drop themselves, not because you have dropped them.”
“I tell the player: ‘There are not many opportunities for me to wait for you to come good.'”
“When I played I used to say: ‘A few more games and I’ll come good,’ but here at Sunderland, we ain’t got a few more games. We have got this week to try to win the first game and after that it becomes ever more difficult to win it if we don’t.”
As stated above, Sunderland players are going to be — if not already — held to a whole new level of accountability under Allardyce’s watch. As Big Sam rightly says, Defoe offers little more than the threat of scoring goals, so if the goals aren’t raining down on the Stadium of Light, there’s really no reason to select Defoe week in and week out.