Norwich City - Sunderland: Five things learned since the two last met

There's been plenty for the Black Cats to learn since the Canaries beat them 3-1 in August.

Norwich City - Sunderland: Five things learned since the two last met
Yann M'Vila in action in Sunderland's 3-1 defeat to Norwich back in August. | Photo: AP

A lot of has changed for Sunderland since the last time they came up against Norwich City in their first home game of the season back in August. In the second week of the season, goals from Russell Martin, Steven Whittaker and Nathan Redmond gave Alex Neil's side a resounding 3-1 victory. 

However, for both sides, their positions have been worryingly consistent as just four points separate these two ahead of Saturday's clash at Carrow Road, with Norwich just the right side of the relegation line and the Black Cats below them.

Ahead of their clash on Saturday lunchtime, here are five things that Sunderland have learned since August's defeat. 

Dick Advocaat was never the right man for the job 

Dick Advocaat just managed to keep Sunderland's top-flight status last season when he came in right at the death, but when he decided that he would move on the club should have left it that way. The horrific start they suffered under the Dutchman's tenure is ultimately what could send them down. 

He made some questionable decisions in the transfer window, with the only one that has come out smelling of roses being Yann M'Vila. These questionable arrivals put on questionable showings in the defeat to Norwich too; one of six defeats they suffered in the nine matches that Advocaat was allowed to take charge of, with the others been draws.

It was a draw that proved to be the final straw too, with the 2-2 result with West Ham United bringing to an end what was a over welcomed stay on Wearside. 

Above: former Sunderland AFC manager Dick Advocaat was sacked after the 2-2 draw with West Ham United | Daily Star
Former Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat was sacked after a 2-2 draw with West Ham United. | Photo: Daily Star

Sam Allardyce should have been appointed in the first place 

Sam Allardyce has proven time and time again why he is one of the best English managers working in the game today, and since his arrival has shown why the uppers at Sunderland should have brought him to Wearside in the first place.

After bowing out at West Ham at the end of the previous season, Allardyce was a free agent for the whole summer as the club's chance to snap him passed by, but they managed to unwrite some of their previous wrongs when they signed him at the beginning of October. 

He showed his quality straight away with the 3-0 victory over Newcastle United and has performed strongly ever since, especially after the January arrivals of Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchhoff, who have proven to be revelations on Wearside.

This has shown in their performances as they have lost just twice since their 2-1 victory over Manchester United seven games ago, and have the right platform and the right manager to lead them towards Premier League safety. 

Youngsters are the way forward 

The one positive that came from the crushing defeat to the Canaries the last these two met was youngster Duncan Watmore bursting onto the scene with his consolation goal in the dying moments of the contest.

Watmore managed to establish himself in the firts-team under both Advocaat and Allardyce, but a long-term injury has scuppered his first-team opportunities in the last few months. 

Watmore isn't the only talented youngster that was and continues to bubble under the surface either, with numerous players from the successful under-21 squad been on the fringes of the first-team squad.

The likes of Jordan Pickford and Rees Greenwood ensure that the club have talent in their ranks going forward, regardless of their fate this season.

Above: Duncan Watmore has emerged this season for Sunderland AFC | The Chronicle
Duncan Watmore has emerged this season for Sunderland. | Photo: The Chronicle

Defend 

It has been clear for some time that defending has been a major problem for the Black Cats, otherwise they wouldn't continue to be in this position season after season. One of their worst examples came in the defeat to Norwich as they failed to do the basics. 

Many expected that their defence would be solidified with the arrival of Younes Kaboul, but his massive indifference in the opening matches of the season and the failures of many other saw Sunderland concede 11 in their opening five matches, failing to keep a clean sheet until the derby day victory. 

However, the arrivals of Kone and Kirchhoff have proven significant in this area. Kone has proved to be a solid addition at the back alongside the improving Kaboul, who seem to have a great partnership, while Kirchhoff, despite a nightmare debut, has been fantastic at providing defensive cover and playing the ball out from back in a holding midfield role.

Improvements have shown in the last few weeks, with the team conceding six in their last five matches and managing their fist clean sheet in 16 games in the goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion. They will be hoping that they continue on that good run coming into the final straight for the season. 

Cut the dead weight 

Allardyce has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense manager and that reputation has shone through massively as he has cut a lot of the dead weight from the Black Cats.

Six considered first-team players were shipped out on loan in the January transfer window and the team performances and spirit has arguably been better for it. 

They will hope to continue to prove this when they visit Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday, with kick-off at 12:45pm BST.