Ever since suffering back-to-back relegations from the Premier League and Championship in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively, Sunderland have been stuck in the EFL League One for four long years. But that pain and misery finally ended this season as the Black Cats earned a promotion to the EFL Championship for next season through the play-offs. In this article, we will explore how Sunderland ended their four-year stay in the third tier of the EFL system through their performances.
Sunderland ended the regular season of the EFL League One in fifth place on the points table, with a record of 24 wins, 12 draws, 10 losses and a goal difference of +26. The Black Cats had the fourth-highest xG of any team at 74.98. However, they did slightly outperform their xG in the regular season by netting 79 times. Add that to the four goals they scored in the play-offs, and their total number of goals scored for the season stood at 83.
The Irishman, Aiden McGeady, who once played for Spartak Moscow, has been the most successful threat creator for Sunderland in League One this season. However, he has played less than 1,000 minutes of league football this campaign. The man who has produced the highest threat from open play is Daniel Neill. He is the joint leader of the Black Cats squad in assists made, along with Alex Pritchard. Both of them finished the campaign with seven assists each to their name.
Seen in the above visual is the shot map of Sunderland in the 2021-22 EFL League One season, excluding the penalties. The Black Cats’ leading goalscorer by a long shot has been the Scotsman, Ross Stewart. He finished this campaign with 26 strikes to his name in the regular season and play-offs combined. In second place is Nathan Broadhead, with 10 goals to his name. Sunderland attempted 649 shots and netted 74 goals, giving them a conversion rate of 8.77 shots per goal scored.
Shown above is the ranking of Sunderland’s attacking performances in this season of EFL League One. The Black Cats rank third in goals scored, fourth in xG, second in total shot attempts and first in dribbles attempted. They also rank third in total touches made in the opponents’ penalty area. The only two categories where Sunderland rank outside the top four are the percentage of shots on target and dribble success rate.
Having finally earned promotion to the second tier of English Football after four attempts, Sunderland will have to reinforce their squad in all departments to not come straight back down to League One. Sunderland’s aim next season will be to avoid the drop zone in the EFL Championship.