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It's the turn of SB Nation's Sunderland blog 'Roker Report' to step into the hot seat ahead of tomorrow's game.
Sunderland took four points off City last season, including being the only side to avoid defeat at The Etihad. an they do it again this season?
(Bitter an Blue) Were you pleased with the signing of Adam Johnson? How has he started for you?
(Roker Report) I think the feeling at signing Johnson was a mixture of delight and shock. As you will probably know, we've been linked with him in every transfer window since before he signed for you, and almost everyone since, too. With no disrespect to you guys, I think he needed a move, as his career was in real danger of stalling at the Etihad due to the wealth of players that you have in similar positions, and I think that it was O'Neill's influence that finally persuaded him to sign for us. There are stories that the manager went to his house to explain his vision for the club, and that was the tipping point, over the likes of Liverpool, who has also registered interest.Unfortunately, he got injured in training with England, so we've only seen him in League Cup action, and for an hour against Wigan, but many feel that he's the missing piece in our attack, filling in on the right hand side (opposite James McClean) where Seb Larsson, for all his quality delivery, could never do with his lack of pace.
(Bitter and Blue) How have you rated Martin O'Neill's time so far at the club? Clearly Bruce had to go but is O'Neill the right man long term?
(Roker Report) He's been everything that we needed him to be. Last season, with Bruce still in charge, Sunderland never seemed to have a plan at all, and if we fell behind in matches, you could pretty much write it off as another bad day at the office.O'Neill has set us up with a very clear plan. We might not seem like the most exciting team to watch, as defence is now the priority, but he's got us working harder than ever, and has players in the system that mean a quick break is more than achievable. With Sessegnon, McClean, Johnson and Fletcher bursting forward, we have enough attacking intent to trouble most teams in this league, and his influence on other players - such as calming down Lee Cattermole and turning Craig Gardner into a quality right-back - has been immense.Is he the man to take us forward in the long term? Without a shadow of a doubt.
(Bitter and Blue) Unbeaten, but plenty of draws and not many goals (at either end) so far. Is this a positive start or missed opportunities?
(Roker Report) It's a bit of both in all honesty. A lot of people were referring to the fact that, until Wigan, we hadn't won this season, but draws away at Arsenal, Swansea (who were top of the league at the time) and West Ham, plus a point at home to an unpredictable Liverpool shouldn't really be sniffed at. However, we were leading twice against the Swans, and against Liverpool and West Ham, which was the frustrating aspect. We were too happy to sit back and defend after scoring our goals, which cost us in each game. There have been occasional grumbles that we don't go to try and kill teams off once we have the first, but most fans realise that this is how O'Neill wants us to play, and that 1-0 to Sunderland might be a result that we'll be seeing a lot of this season. We've made a steady start, and it must be remembered that we've played a game less than the majority of the league, due to having our game against Reading called off, but if we'd held on for 20 more seconds against West Ham, and presumably beat the Royals, a solid start would have looked like a very, very good one.
(Bitter and Blue) Sunderland were the only side to take points off City at the Etihad last season. How do they go one step further and get the win?
(Roker Report) Defend, defend and defend some more. However, with no disrespect intended, your defence doesn't look as strong this season as it did last time out, and Mancini's insistence on switching between four at the back and five seems to confuse everyone, including your players. We'll almost certainly sit back and look for opportunites to break, but with the form that Fletcher is in, it's difficult to imagine us not creating at least one chance against you, and the Scot has scored with every shot he's had so far this season...The only concern that I have is that we may have to play Titus Bramble on Saturday, and although he was excellent against Wigan, your front line is rather more potent than theirs, and he is prone to the occasional lapse in concentration.
(Bitter and Blue) And finally, a prediction for Saturday?
(Roker Report) Can we do it? Certainly. Will we do it? Maybe. Heart says yes, head says a tight and nervy 1-1. I think Fletcher will score first, but we won't quite be able to hold on.