Monday 31st March 2014
Stadium of Light
Sunderland vs West Ham United
Win this, and we're pretty much safe.
Three points puts us at 37 points with 6 games to go. That'd be 11 points clear of 18th place Cardiff City, 12 points clear of 19th place Sunderland (though they will still have two in hand), and 13 clear of dead and buried Fulham.
This is a big, important game. The sort of game Sam Allardyce was born to manage, and the sort of game that probably won't fetch the best Monday night viewing figures!
Sunderland have a number of important players in their ranks, and will need a number of them to hit some kind of form between now and the end of the season if they're to survive.
Adam Johnson had a glorious January, scoring five and creating two in four appearances. Sebastien Larsson, Craig Gardner, Jack Colback and Fabio Borini have all played important roles for the Black Cats in recent times, while the likes of Phil Bardsley, Lee Cattermole, Liam Bridcutt and John O'Shea have the experience and defensive knowhow to make life difficult for opposition attackers.
But for me, Sunderland's key man is on loan Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng.
The South Korean international has scored three goals from midfield this season, created 25 chances and won an impressive 59% of his 58 tackles. He has been an all round, consistent presence in the middle of the park this season.
But what puts Ki apart from the rest is his ability and composure on the ball. The midfielder has completed a quite remarkable 91% of his passes in a Sunderland side not renowned for it's ball playing ability. And, unlike the accusations offered lobbied toward his parent club, Ki plays the majority of passes forward (58.8% of his 1076), and doesn't mind going long when required (9% or 98 long balls).
In the 3-0 away derby victory, Ki was a metronome in the middle of the park, completing 97% of his passes - overall, his team completed 75%.
But not only can the Korean keep hold of the ball, but he is perfectly skilled when travelling with it. Ki takes on an opposition player a little more than once a game (25 in 24 appearances), but when he does, he is very effective, completing 88% of his take ons.
I've seen talk this week that West Ham are interested in bolstering their midfield ranks with Raul Meireles in the summer. But maybe Ki should be on the list of targets too...
How do you stop them?
After their good form a couple of months back, Sunderland have failed to win since their derby victory back on the first of February, losing four and drawing one of their following five games.
And the Black Cats have a pretty poor home record this season in the league. In front of their own fans, Sunderland have collected just 12 points (three wins, three draws) from 14 games. In fact, if the league were compiled from home form only, Sunderland would sit bottom of the league.
In their last two home games, Gus Poyet's team have managed a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace, and a two goal defeat at the hands of Hull City. Both teams adopted very different styles of play, and I believe the best way to nullify Sunderland at home is to approach the game in the manner that Hull did. While Palace sat back, defended deep and ground out a point, Hull refused to allow Sunderland into their penalty area.
The image below shows the overall heat map of the game. What you can see, is that the Hull penalty box was the least active area in the game and was barely troubled throughout - particularly when compared to the Sunderland area.
By putting Sunderland on the back foot, tackling high up the park, and using their 3-5-2 formation to congest the middle of the field and crowd out Sunderland's attack, Hull managed to keep the Mackems at arms length.
Sunderland have had two key weaknesses this season.
Firstly, their inability to score goals. Strikers Steven Fletcher, Jozy Altidore and Fabio Borini have managed 7 goals between them in a combined 70 Premier League appearances. And, other than Adam Johnson, nobody else has really stepped up and chipped in.
But their real weakness has been individual errors - and the main culprit has been someone who should really know better.
For a man with more than 400 career appearances - 300+ of these in the Premier League and European competition - 23 England caps, 9 domestic cups, 5 Premier League titles and 2 Champions League winners medals under his belt, Wes Brown has been abysmal.
The former Manchester United defender is supposed to provide an experienced, reliable head at the back for Sunderland, but has completely failed to do so this season. In a side that has committed 12 errors leading directly to a shot on goal, Brown has made more than any other player, with three mistakes - one of which led to a goal. On top of this, Brown has committed 11 fouls and received three red cards, leaving his side in the lurch on numerous occasions.
Despite this, Sunderland do concede less goals when the defender is playing (1.1 with and 2.1 without), though this figure is affected greatly by the start of the season under Paolo Di Canio - where Brown was out of the side and the entire side was leaking goals like nobodies business.
And Brown has won 60% of his aerial duels this season, despite playing in a side whose lack of ability in this area has led to whoscored.com calling their aerial duels a real weakness in this side. Though the former England defender has only contested 3.3 duels per game this season, and hasn't come up against anyone playing a traditional target man this season.
I reckon we'll draw this. We'll be resolute, defend well, but won't really threaten to score.
Head to Head
36% Head to Head Win % 38%
31 Won 32
22 Drawn 22
32 Lost 31
123 Goals Scored 131
131 Goals Conceded 123
L L L D L L Last 6 W W L L L W
3 Goals Scored 8
14 Goals Conceded 8
D W W L W D Home/Away Form L W D W L L
5 Goals Scored 5
4 Goals Conceded 10
Form Player (excl. GK)
(Last 6 League)
Adam Johnson - James Tomkins
6 Appearances 6
395 Minutes Played 540
119 Sum Squawka Performance Score 129
20 Average Squawka Performance Rating 22
117 Passes Attempted 170
89 Completed 124
76% Success Rate 73%
11 Chances Created 0
1 Assists 0
8 Attempts on Goal 1
3 On Target 0
1 Goals 0
12 Take Ons Attempted 0
8 Successful Take Ons 0
67% Success Rate 0%
9 Tackles Made 14
6 Successful Tackles 9
67% Success Rate 64%
2 Interceptions 17
1 Clearances 51
0 Blocks 2
1 Defensive Actions Per Game 12
4 Aerial Duels 38
2 Won 26
50% Success Rate 68%
0 Defensive Errors 0
0 Leading to a Goal 0
14 December 2013
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-2-3-1
Vito Mannon - Jussi Jääskeläinen
Ondrej Celustka - Guy Demel (58')
John O'Shea - James Collins
Wes Brown - James Tomkins
(82') Phil Bardsley - George McCartney
Lee Cattermole - Mark Noble
Ki Sung-Yueng - Ravel Morrison
Emanuele Giaccherini - Joe Cole (75')
Sebastian Larsson - Mohamed Diamé
(72') Fabio Borini - Matt Jarvis (56')
(73') Jozy Altidore - Modibo Maïga
Jordan Pickford - Adrián
(82') Andrea Dossena - Rǎzvan Raţ
Valentin Roberge - Joey O'Brien (58')
Cabral - Jack Collison (56')
Craig Gardner - Matthew Taylor
(72') Adam Johnson - Alou Diarra
(73') Steven Fletcher - Carlton Cole (75')
Sunderland: Kieran WestwoodSteven Fletcher
West Ham United: Winston Reid, James Collins, Joey O'Brien, Matt Jarvis, Marco Borriello
West Ham United: n/a
Opposition Last Time Out (League)
Goals Scored: 1
Goals Conceded: 2
Starting Formation: 5-3-2
Phil Bardsley Santiago Vergini John O'Shea Wes Brown Andrea Dossena (83')
Liam Bridcutt Lee Catermole
Emanuele Giaccherini (61')
Jozy Altidore Connor Wickham (61')
Ki Sung-Yueng (61')
Adam Johnson (61')
Jack Colback (83')
Best Player: Ki Sung-Yueng
Squawka Rating: 45
Worst Player: Santiago Vergini
Squawka Rating: -26
Top 5's (Min 5 Apps)
Adan Johnson 7 - 7 Kevin Nolan
Steven Fletcher 3 - 6 Carlton Cole
Emanuele Giaccherini 3 - 3 Joe Cole
Fabio Borini 3 - 3 Ravel Morrison*
Ki Sung-Yueng 3 - 3 Mohamed Diamé
Adam Johnson 4 - 5 Kevin Nolan
Jack Colback 2 - 3 Andy Carroll
Craig Gardner 1 - 3 Matt Jarvis
Emanuele Giaccherini 1 - 3 Mark Noble
Fabio Borini 1 - 2 Stewart Downing
Ki Sung-Yueng 91% - 83% Mark Noble
Jack Colback 88% - 81% Stewart Downing
Valentin Roberge 86% - 79% Joe Cole
Lee Cattermole 85% - 79% Joey O'Brien
John O'Shea 83% - 78% Kevin Nolan
Chances Created per game
Adam Johnson 1.5 - 1.8 Stewart Downing
Sebastian Larsson 1.4 - 1.5 Mark Noble
Marcos Alonso 1.3 - 1 Matt Jarvis
Emanuele Giaccherini 1.3 - 1 Kevin Nolan
Ki Sung-Yueng 1 - 0.8 Andy Carroll
Successful Dribbles per game
Emanuele Giaccherini 1.3 - 1.8 Mohamed Diamé
Marcos Alonso 1.3 - 1.1 Mark Noble
Adam Johnson 1.2 - 0.9 Guy Demel
Phil Bardsley 0.9 - 0.9 Stewart Downing
Ki Sung-Yueng 0.9 - 0.6 Matt Jarvis
Tackles per game
Marcos Alonso 3.6 - 2.7 Mark Noble
Lee Cattermole 2.8 - 2.2 Mohamed Diamé
Phil Bardsley 2.5 - 2 James Collins
Liam Bridcutt 2.5 - 1.9 Kevin Nolan
Valentin Roberge 2.4 - 1.8 Matthew Taylor
Aerial Duels Won per game
Steven Fletcher 3 - 8.4 Andy Carroll
Jozy Altidore 2.5 - 4.4 James Tomkins
John O'Shea 2.4 - 3.5 James Collins
Wes Brown 2.1 - 2.6 Carlton Cole
Marcos Alonso 1.8 - 2.4 Winston Reid
Gus Poyet - Sam Allardyce
38.7% Current Club Win % 41.4%
12 Won 53
6 Drawn 32
13 Lost 43
43.5% Managerial Career Win % 39.9%
98 Won 347
65 Drawn 231
62 Lost 290
2 Sides Managed 7
1 League Titles 2
0 Cup Wins 0
Brighton & Hove Albion First Managerial Role Preston North End
10/11/2009 Start Date 30/09/1992
4y 141d Experience 21y 181d