WBA v Sunderland: Three key areas for Sam Allardyce to begin with a win

DeAndre Yedlin in action for Sunderland during their 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light against West Ham United. Picture by FRANK REID
DeAndre Yedlin in action for Sunderland during their 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light against West Ham United. Picture by FRANK REID
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Can Sam Allardyce succeed where Dick Advocaat failed on eight occasions and secure a Premier League win for Sunderland this season?

It would be a timely occasion for Sunderland to break their duck in Allardyce’s first game at the helm, with West Brom loitering on the cliff-face towards the bottom three.

But what will be the key factors at The Hawthorns? Here’s three key areas.

1. Can Sunderland learn to defend double-quick?

Allardyce has had just two days on the training ground with the whole of his squad to put across his plans to reverse Sunderland’s alarming fragility at the back.

That is precious little time to implement wide-ranging changes, with Allardyce forced to adopt a policy of evolution, rather than revolution.

But Allardyce has made it clear that his main priority is to tighten up Sunderland’s defence and he will hope to see a drastic improvement.

Fit-again Younes Kaboul is in line to take the place of the suspended Sebastian Coates and will need to cut out his string of costly errors against the joint lowest scorers in the Premier League.

2. Will James McClean come back to haunt Sunderland?

Those off-the-field incidents have continued to dog McClean since his summer move to The Hawthorns after turning his back on the British national anthem during pre-season.

But the Ireland international will be desperate to prove a point in his first appearance against Sunderland after claiming last season that he was “hung out to dry” by the club who gave him his big break in English football.

DeAndre Yedlin is likely to be tasked with keeping McClean under wraps and did alright on his first Premier League start against West Ham a fortnight ago.

The only concern is that Yedlin will still be feeling the affects of jet-lag after a couple of appearances for the USA on the other side of the Atlantic.

3. Can Steven Fletcher continue his goalscoring form?

It has been a productive fortnight for Fletcher after netting five goals in three games for club and country, and producing a superb display against West Ham.

There have been too many false dawns from Fletcher since his first six months in a Sunderland shirt though; the odd-stand-out performance failing to spark a consistent run of form.

Fletcher will get the chance to prove he can build on the last fortnight, with Allardyce unlikely to suddenly abandon Sunderland’s 4-3-3 set-up and put Jermain Defoe back into the fray.

With a new no-nonsense manager at the helm, Fletcher has to make the most of that early opportunity as the spearhead of the Sunderland attack.