Chris Young Analysis - Can Jermain Defoe continue debut goal pattern at Spurs?

Santiago Vergini
Santiago Vergini
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FIRST appearance for West Ham – goal. First appearance on loan at Bournemouth – goal. First appearance for Spurs – goal. First appearance for Toronto – goal... two of them.

First appearance for Sunderland...

How Gus Poyet will be longing for the most high-profile of Sunderland’s captures during his reign to continue that pattern at his former stomping ground White Hart Lane tomorrow.

Sunderland need goals and they need the points to emerge from the post-derby slump which has soured progress and prompted a torrent of criticism earlier this week after the ugly manner of defeat to Liverpool.

Presuming he gets the right service, and presuming he is given the all-clear to feature, Jermain Defoe can and will cure the goals problem. He has proved that throughout his career.

Even the biggest sceptics can’t argue that Defoe is a significant upgrade on the man he replaced, Jozy Altidore.

But does the England international start against Spurs tomorrow after he spent a week training with his former club earlier this month?

It would be a big ask, considering he hasn’t featured in the Premier League for a year and last started for Toronto in mid-October.

But Sunderland have been working on incorporating Defoe into the starting XI on the training field over the last couple of days, and the 32-year-old is obviously no Premier League novice from overseas.

If Defoe does start, it’s likely to see Connor Wickham revert to a left-sided forward role – albeit he will be asked to tuck inside more – with Adam Johnson remaining on the opposite flank.

Don’t suddenly expect Poyet to adopt an orthodox 4-4-2. It will be a case of evolution, not revolution, with his favoured 4-1-4-1 system.

But while attention will centre on Defoe’s involvement, his contribution and how he is used by his ex-Spurs team-mate Poyet, the make-up of the rest of the team cannot be overlooked.

Defoe’s capture has injected some much needed positivity around the place, with Sunderland clearly in need of attacking reinforcements this month.

Yet no one should forget quite how bad Sunderland were against Liverpool last weekend.

If there’s any repeat of that, it doesn’t matter who is up front. They’ll never see the ball, let alone get a chance.

There have to be changes tomorrow.

One is enforced with Liam Bridcutt suspended. Either Lee Cattermole, or Jack Rodwell will occupy that defensive midfield slot, depending on their respective fitness situations.

If both are fit – or even if they’re not – then surely Jordi Gomez needs a breather in the middle of the park after a jaded display against Liverpool.

The same applies to Santiago Vergini, with Billy Jones’ return to fitness surely making him a contender to start at right-back.

Jones is more attack-minded than Vergini, who perhaps offers better defensive protection, yet there will be gaps to exploit against Spurs – Burnley’s opening goal in Wednesday night’s FA Cup replay was proof of that.

Spurs are a difficult team to work out. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were superb at the Stadium of Light in September; arguably the best opposition Sunderland have faced this season.

Yet they were horribly inconsistent after that and although their fortunes picked up over Christmas, they fell victim to the Alan Pardew bounce effect at Crystal Palace last weekend.

Nevertheless, Spurs have got a host of match-winners, most notably Harry Kane after six goals in his last six Premier League outings.

Certainly, it would rank as a major upset if Defoe can help Sunderland to only a fourth top-flight win of the campaign tomorrow. His influence may be felt more acutely when relegation rivals Burnley visit the Stadium of Light in the next league outing on January 31.

Verdict: Home win

Verdict: Home win