The new year started with a game on New Year’s day and Sunderland was eager to get three points away at Blackpool to keep their promotion dreams alive in League One. Jack Ross’ outfit won the match 0-1, thanks to a 23rd-minute goal from Maja.
In this tactical analysis, we will have a look at how the offensive actions of Sunderland were constructed during the game and how their formation made that possible.
Sunderland started out with a 4-4-2 formation with Wyke and Maja upfront. They encountered a Blackpool playing with a formation of 4-2-3-1. It would be interesting to see how Sunderland would have played in a 4-4-2 formation, having played in a 4-2-3-1 in the last game that they drew 1-1 with Shrewsbury in the league.
As mentioned above, Sunderland changed their formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 for the game against Blackpool.
The 4-4-2 left a more solid midfield with more players defending the wings, but offensively this also gave Sunderland more options against Blackpool. McGeady, Power, Cattermole, and Gooch all played deep in case of an attack. This is how Sunderland played the majority of the game from minute one to 84. Then they switched it up to a 4-4-1-1.
Wyke and Maja were taken off in the 84th and 88th minute, and McGeoch and Maguire were their replacements. This meant that Maguire played as the deepest striker, closely followed by Power who played in front of the four midfielders. McGeady swapped places with Gooch and with Power moving, McGeoch took his place in central midfield. In this moment of the game, they were concerned with consolidating their lead.
The key in the offensive play of Sunderland was in the deep-lying midfield of the away team. They formed a solid block of four players who in attacking-mode, all contributed to the forward movement.
The position of the players during the game, tells us a lot about the offensive intentions of Sunderland. Of the midfielders, only Cattermole holds a typical midfield position. Power, McGeady and Gooch are playing very deep in this situation. The deep-lying midfielders and the strikers all tend to play to the right, which gives way to the upcoming left-back James, who has a lot of space before him.
The above is noticeable on a few occasions in the game, where the attack is strengthened by the deep-lying midfielders.
In the build-up to the goal, we can see that McGeady, Power, and Cattermole are all in Blackpool’s half, taking part in the attack that ultimately lead to the goal. The intention of being more attacking, can also be seen in the upcoming left-back James.
McGeady as a left wing midfielder gets the bal in the final phase of the attack and has different options. Wyke, Cattermole and Maja all get in position to receive the cross. Ultimately McGeady looks for Maja, who successfully puts the ball in the net to give Sunderland the 0-1 lead.
In this counterattack, started by Flanagan with a long ball, Maja is quick to run against the Blackpool defenders. He’s going to make a pass and has two choices: striker Wyke or the deep-lying midfielder Cattermole. Once more the depth of the midfielders is characteristic for the attacking play of Sunderland.
Above you can see that in case of an attack, Sunderland’s intentions are clear: get as many players in the opposition’s half and create a decent goalscoring opportunity. In case of a counterattack – which was the case on both occasions – they move quickly and get a minimum of three players in the opponents half.
The conversion of chances
According to the statistics provided by Wyscout, Sunderland had 13 shots over the whole game. Of those chances, seven attempts were on target. But the statistic that tells us more about the conversion of the attacking play as described above into chances, can be found in the positional attacks and counterattacks of Sunderland. They made 58 attacks of which 11 attacks ended with a shot. That is 19% of the total and in the end, they had seven shots on target. But only Maja’s attempt found the back of the net.
Sunderland’s attacking intention of play was constructed in a 4-4-2 with deep-lying midfielders and was to the way they set out against Shrewsbury. Offensively, Sunderland were quite dominant and made quite a few runs at the Blackpool defence. Sunderland couldn’t convert the number of attacks into chances according to with their style of play, with 19% only lead to shots. Jack Ross’ team was dominant, but now need to make the step into converting into goalscoring opportunities.