Sunderland boss sets sights on Swansea crunch

Sam Allardyce with Paul Bracewell
Sam Allardyce with Paul Bracewell

Sunderland’s trip to fellow strugglers Swansea City is “just as big” as their basement battle with Aston Villa, believes Sam Allardyce.

The Black Cats boss immediately turned his attention to Wednesday night’s encounter at fourth-bottom Swansea after Sunderland’s FA Cup campaign fell at the first hurdle with defeat at Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Obviously, the planning for the Arsenal game was keeping in mind Wednesday and next Saturday.

Allardyce clearly had Swansea in mind with his team selection at the Emirates, with seven changes to the starting XI, in a bid to keep his key figures fresh for the trip to the Liberty Stadium.

Sunderland came through the Arsenal encounter unscathed, other than a slight scare over captain John O’Shea, who came off midway through the second half as a precaution.

But after triumphing over basement boys Villa in their last Premier League outing to remain in sight of those teams above them, Allardyce says the trip to south Wales is equally important for second bottom Sunderland.

Allardyce said: “This is going to be just as big a game as the Aston Villa one was for us, with the distance they can pull away from us if they win and the closer we can get to them if we win.

“Obviously, the planning for the Arsenal game was keeping in mind Wednesday and next Saturday (at Spurs).

“We’ll probably see quite a few changes.

“John O’Shea was the only casualty from Saturday’s game, which is a little concerning, but we pulled him off as quick as we could with a tight calf.

“But I think everybody else is alright apart from the fatigue of playing in this game.”

Despite such an altered line-up at Arsenal, Sunderland matched the Gunners for long periods at the Emirates, with Allardyce’s fringe players performing well.

But when O’Shea and Lee Cattermole both came off in the second half – with an eye towards the Swansea game – Arsenal were able to dominate, with Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud sealing victory for the Gunners in the final 20 minutes.

“I’ve got lots of players who say they should be playing more, like DeAndre Yedlin and Ola (Toivonen)” added Allardyce.

“Duncan Watmore is picking up more and more experience, while Steven Fletcher hadn’t played in the previous two because Jermain (Defoe) played up there.

“There was a lot of talent out there in our team that had been brought to the club and I thought we were a match for Arsenal for 70 minutes so I hope that continues.”

Allardyce is hopeful of adding to his squad this week, with striker Dame N’Doye closing in on a loan deal from Turkish side Trabzonspor.

But new signing Jan Kirchhoff is unlikely to be involved at Swansea – knocked out of the cup by League Two Oxford yesterday – with the German centre-half still short on fitness after just one brief substitute’s outing for Bayern Munich this season.

“I think it’s probably a bit early for Jan,” added Allardyce.

“We’ll probably take him with us, but at best we’ll put him on the substitute’s bench.”