Sunderland players bewildered by form against ‘lower’ teams

Ki Sung-Yueng
Ki Sung-Yueng

KI SUNG-YUENG admits Sunderland’s players have been left scratching their heads over the Black Cats continually fluffing their lines against their relegation rivals.

But the South Korean insists there was a determination to set that record straight as soon as the final whistle blew at Liverpool last week.

Sunderland’s only two victories this season against sides in the bottom half came against Fulham and Stoke City, with the Black Cats either choking when faced with a crunch clash against one of their fellow strugglers, or being unable to find a way through a stubborn defence.

Gus Poyet’s men desperately need to end that pattern against West Ham tonight, as they look to move back onto the coat-tails of fourth bottom West Brom.

On-loan Swansea man Ki, likely to be recalled to the starting XI, realises the scale of the problem, but after a much-improved performance at Anfield last Wednesday, the midfielder says Sunderland’s dressing room immediately set their sights on the Hammers.

Ki: “It’s weird that we play well against the big teams, but we don’t get points from the bottom ones.

“We talked in the dressing room about that after Liverpool. We need points against the bottom teams.

“It’s going to be crucial tonight against West Ham. I think everyone knows how important that is.

“I don’t know why we have struggled against the teams around us.

“But we’ve still got some games that we must win, especially tonight which is going to be a big one.”

Poyet experimented with a new 5-3-2 formation at Anfield and it resulted in Sunderland’s best performance since suffering defeat in the Capital One Cup final.

The expectation is that Poyet will continue with the system tonight, albeit with several changes in personnel, with Fabio Borini and Marcos Alonso available again and both Ki and Adam Johnson pushing for starts after affective substitute contributions on Merseyside.

And Ki, who could take the place of Emanuele Giaccherini, says he was able to see how well the formation worked and the gaps available to exploit in Liverpool’s defence by watching the first hour from the bench.

“We saw in the first half what we needed to do when we came on,” he added.

“There were spaces to attack in between their midfield and defensive line.

“The gaffer asked us to drive it forward and we would get some chances. It was the first time we’d tried that formation and I think the boys did well in it. We looked organised and then got forward well in the second half.”