Everton have had some exciting games against Sunderland in recent years. We spoke with our fellow SB Nation blog Roker Report about what's been going on at the Stadium of Light this season.
RBM - Paolo Di Canio was a controversial figure to pick as manager, and despite pulling the team out of the mire last season, didn't last too long this year. What went wrong?
The shorter answer would be what went right!
We were told beforehand by plenty that it would end in disaster, we refused to really believe it but the naysayers were right all along. His tenure was an unmitigated disaster.
On the rare occasions something went right, it was all down to the ‘genius’ of Paolo. When things went wrong, as they often did, it’s all the players fault and their terrible people.
That can only go on for so long. He signed too many players, the vast majority of whom haven’t been significant upgrades on what we already had and he managed to isolate and alienate everyone.
Tactically he was suck in the past too. All in all, he was terrible.
RBM - How do the fanbase feel about another volatile player Gus Poyet taking over the reins at the Stadium of Light? What is he doing differently?
Gus has proved to be incredibly pragmatic and the polar opposite to Paolo. The difference between them is night and day, they’re completely different.
For starters Poyet has a system in place that he wants us to play. It’s working ok so far although it doesn't quite carve open too many chances. Unfortunately when we do we've tended to miss them -- which he can’t really be blamed for.
He’s managed to get the best out of what’s at his disposal, January he’ll have the tough task of trying to attract the quality we needed in the summer.
Overall, the vast majority are very happy with his progress so far.
RBM - Sunderland are into the League Cup semis. How do you see this season ending up? Will Poyet be able to do enough to save the team from the drop?
I hope we can do enough to stay up. It will require us to do something special though and also have a little bit of luck with the sides around us continuing their own poor form.
In all honesty I think it will require the perfect storm of results for us to stay up, but it’s not entirely impossible. We'velamented the games against Aston Villa, West Ham United and Norwich City recently but they’re three points rather than no points, which could count for something at the end of the season.
RBM - How is the youth setup looking? Are there any youngsters who look like they will be breaking into the Black Cats starting lineup any time soon?
Our youth team and reserve side has been magnificent of late, and we’re all hoping that there’s a golden generation of sorts just around the corner. Many fans want to see some of them included as soon as possible.
Jordan Pickford is a very highly regarded young goalkeeper, and while he does need to physically mature a bit, he’s done well on loan in the lower leagues and will be pushing to be the number two ‘keeper next season.
Defensively John Egan and Louis Laing have both been touted around for a while and are good, ball-playing central defenders. Unfortunately they’ve been often injured and you wonder if that will set them back.
In midfield the jewel of the crown is Alejandro Gorrin. A young Spaniard who has been with us since his early teens, and provides a bit of everything. Almost a young Xavi in terms of his style, although not quite his quality. He had a trial at Borussia Dortmund in the summer and is a real one to watch.
Attacking wise there’s Duncan Watmore who we signed in the summer from Altrincham and has looked very assured in the Under-21’s. A low centre of gravity, tricky, pacy and knows where the goal is. Mikael Mandron is another prospect who is powerful and pacy in attack and can be a handful at already 6’0 tall.
Couple those with summer signings Charis Mavrias, El-Hadji Ba and David Moberg-Karlsson, times could be exciting for us soon. The problem is that we’re not really in a position to blood them at the moment while there’s still a remote chance of staying up.
RBM - I'll forego the customary January transfer window question, and instead ask for your thoughts on the hectic Christmas schedule? Should a winter break be implemented for the Premier League?
Interesting question. It’s something I’ve thought about and can see the pros and cons of the system.
On the plus side, teams will get a break and they can be rested. Perhaps even do warm weather training. The downside is that you now the bigger boys will be flying teams halfway round the world for showpiece friendlies.
I’ll say yes though. I think teams such as ourselves would be a little more sensible over that time.
It would be a drag to miss the ‘tradition’ of Christmas games, but you've also got to get with the times.
RBM - Finally, a very Merry Christmas to you and your readers. What are you expecting to see at Goodison on Thursday, and who will we be talking about after the game?
I think we’ll be playing for a draw. I don’t think we’ll get it.
We’ll be trying to pass, pass, pass, bore you to death and hopefully get lucky on the counter. I think the more likely outcome is that Romelu Lukaku destroys our makeshift defence (Brown suspended, O’Shea broken arm) and we’re talking about how it was expected because Everton always beat us and you’ll be talking about a routine win.