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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Sunderland

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Sunderland hasn’t done much in the way of additions this summer, so can the Black Cats stay up again next season?

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Several key departures have left Sunderland at a severe disadvantage in comparison to the rest of the Premier League field, including Emmanuel Giaccherini and Steven Fletcher. Additionally, manager Sam Allardyce has left the club to take on a new challenge with England, while David Moyes has been tasked with keeping the Black Cats afloat again in 2016/17.

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One of the biggest stories to watch over the coming weeks will be how the Black Cats fare defensively. While the team’s attack is lacking depth, the side has much sorting out to do at the back, which is currently led by veteran center back John O'Shea.

U.S. defender DeAndre Yeslin has recently been linked with a move back to the Stadoum of Light after a successful loan spell in 2015/16, however, no move has been made yet to secure the full back.

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Cohesion will give the Black Cats an advantage over newcomers: While Sunderland has lost several talents this summer and added nothing up until this point, the team could very well benefit from keeping together much of its core. As long as the squad remains healthy, the players’ familiarity with one another could carry them as high as the top half of the table.

Most likely fight to stay afloat next season: A lack of additions this summer has put Moyes and co. behind the eight ball. While leading scorers Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini remain at the club, Sunderland simply doesn’t have the firepower to contend with even the PL’s mid-table sides like Everton and Southampton.

Best Possible XI

—– Mannone —–

— Jones — O’Shea  — Kone — Kaboul —

— Cattermole — Khazri — Van Aanholt —

 — Lens —

— Defoe –Borini —


Transfers in: None

Transfers out: Wes Brown (Released), Danny Graham (Free, Blackburn), Steve Harper (Released), Martin Smith (Free, Kilmarnock), Emmanuel Giaccherini (Undisclosed, Napoli), Steven Fletcher (Free, Sheffield Wednesday), Mikael Mandron (Free, Eastleigh), Liam Agnew (Released), Adam Matthews (Loan, Bristol City), Santiago Vergini ($1 million, Boca Juniors)

Last season: Fans of the club were given a thrill (and likely a scare or two) but Sunderland’s escape of relegation at the tail end of 2015/16 was a memorable one for the Black Cats. A 17th place finish isn’t anything to brag about but a stay in the Premier League is all the supporters and squad members will care about.

Star player: Jermain Defoe – At 33 years old, Defoe has aged like fine wine and proven to be a steal for Sunderland since returning to the Premier League in 2015. The Englishman netted 15 goals a season ago, good enough for seventh in England. With the Black Cats undermanned up front, Defoe will be at the center of the team’s attacking duties for the second straight campaign.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Jermain Defoe of Sunderland celebrates staying in the Premier League after victory during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Coach’s corner: David Moyes has faced difficult challenges before but 2016/17 could be his biggest yet. With Sunderland failing to make a splash this summer in the transfer market, the new boss will have to overcome several major hurdles with a roster that doesn’t boast a ton of talent. After narrowly escaping relegation in the final matches of the 2015/16 season, Moyes will have to get creative and hopefully bank on spending more in January if the team is to stay up by the end of May 2017.

METHIL, SCOTLAND - JULY 12: David Moyes manager of Real Sociedad looks on during the pre season friendly match between St Johnstone and Real Sociedad at Bayview on July 12, 2015 in Methil, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Sunderland could very well be in a similar position this season as they were a year ago with the team’s lack of additions this summer. With the squad likely forced to rely heavily again on Jermain Defoe up front, it will be up to the veteran Englishman to duplicate his impressive form of a season ago if the Black Cats are to survive again. A finish near the bottom is more than likely barring a big spending spree this winter.

Gareth Bale being rested for Wales’ upcoming friendlies

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With a big summer upcoming for Wales at the UEFA European Championship, the nation’s biggest star has been left off their roster for two upcoming friendlies.

[ MORE: Chelsea hosts West Ham in critical battle for European spot ]

Manager Chris Coleman has opted to rest Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale for the team’s matches against Northern Ireland and Ukraine.

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Wales will host No. Ireland on March 24, before heading to Ukraine four days later.

“It was a joint decision and Real Madrid have been absolutely first class,” said Coleman. “Both parties think it is best that he stays where he is. He will benefit from that between now and the end of the season. Since he has been at Real Madrid, what has he scored – seven goals in 10 games? It has been his best form for us.”

In addition to Bale’s absence, Wales will also be without Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The 25-year old is currently nursing a calf injury, but Gunners manager Arsene Wenger believes the the Welshman could make his Premier League return after the international break.

Here’s the full rundown of Wales’ squad ahead of their upcoming friendlies:

Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Owain Fon Williams (Inverness CT).

Defenders: James Chester (West Brom), Ben Davies (Tottenham), Chris Gunter (Reading), Adam Henley (Blackburn Rovers), Adam Matthews (Bristol City), Jazz Richards (Fulham), Neil Taylor (Swansea City), Ashley Williams (Swansea City).

Midfielders: Joe Allen (Liverpool), David Cotterill (Birmingham City), Andrew Crofts (Brighton), Lloyd Isgrove (Barnsley), Emyr Huws (Huddersfield), Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), Shaun MacDonald (Bournemouth), David Vaughan (Nottingham Forest), Jonathan Williams (MK Dons).

Forwards: Tom Bradshaw (Walsall), Simon Church (Aberdeen), Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading), Tom Lawrence (Cardiff City), Sam Vokes (Burnley), George Williams (Gillingham).

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Allardyce on using USMNT’s inexperienced Yedlin at RB: “It’s a massive ask”

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Sam Allardyce knows a relegation battle when he sees one, and even an injury crisis has him nervous about using inexperienced USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin.

The speedy American wingback is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, and Sunderland’s table position has its manager wondering if he can afford to use the 22-year-old.

[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]

Billy Jones is injured, and the Black Cats did not firm up their right back depth in the transfer window. Ex-Celtic back Adam Matthews is among the other options, and played 150 times for the Bhoys.

And Yedlin had just 56 professional appearances and was less than three years removed from two years at Akron when he moved to London.

From the Sunderland Echo:

“We’ve got Billy who has a lot of experience, and obviously we’ve got DeAndre, who has very little experience at this level.

“DeAndre has a lot of qualities, but without that experience, it’s a massive ask to perform at the consistent level that you need to at this stage of the season, particularly with the pressure we’re all under.”

You have to love that following his train of thought would continue with, “but we don’t have any better options, so let’s see what happens!” It’s not quite Guus Hiddink saying of Chelsea youth like Matt Miazga, “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in“, but Allardyce is right in saying the relegation plight is a different pressure than Chelsea’s much safer spot.

This is a big chance — and a big ask — for Yedlin, who replaced Jones in last week’s comeback draw with Liverpool and has only seen Spurs improve since he went on loan. How has Yedlin fared this season? In terms of overall stats, he hasn’t been very good at all, though advanced stats site Squawka says he is slightly better than Jones.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 9.28.33 AM

But in terms of straight-up defending, the USMNT man has done the job a lot better.

Sunderland Yedlin

It would be classic Big Sam to improve his lot in the Premier League safety race because injury forced him to remove Jones.

Go get ’em, kid.