Sunderland v Blackburn and finally, a change in fortunes at the Stadium of Light. Martin O’Neil has been in the hot seat at Sunderland since last Tuesday so has had little time to address his new teams’ tactics after last weeks’ Molineux mess up. This game was of huge importance to both teams, both scrapping at the base of the league with just 4 wins between them all season. And it is easy to see why. If yesterday was anything to go by, ignoring the fact that Sunderland ended the game with a 67% share of the possession both these teams are lacking in creativity.
Last season this fixture finished 3-0 to the home side. Back then Sunderland boasted a frontline to strike fear in to most defences in the Premier League, so who were the goal scorers in last seasons’ meeting? Danny Wellbeck, Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan, not that Sunderland fans need reminding.
Last season Sunderland were a much different team to the one entertaining Wearside this time around, in more ways than one. After Vuckevics’ 17th minute opener Sunderland racked up a massive 57 crosses throughout the entire game, undoubtedly Blackburns’ tactics were to defend their one goal lead. Last season in the same fixture, Sunderland delivered just 23 in to the box, one of which was scored directly, another was eventually turned in after a poorly headed clearance. Two of Sunderlands’ goals had a midfielder make an assist, on Sunday neither team could find a pass deadly enough to be finished off.
In essence, since being taken apart as an attacking unit Sunderland have ran out of ideas. Against a defence which contains Christopher Samba and Scott Dann, it doesn’t take a Sir Alex Ferguson to figure out that tactics which involve crossing high balls in to the box are ineffective. Samba and Dann won 100% of their aerial battles, making 44 clearances between them, there were no defensive errors.
The 57 crosses Sunderland hoyed in to the box are a reflection of how far backwards they have gone and the differences in their playing styles, not fast paced and direct any more. 215 of Sunderlands’ 543 passes v Blackburn were made on the wings, compare that to Blackburns’ 46 wing area passes from their 271 total passes and it not only underlines Sunderland’s domination of the game but also the fact that they need to find that final pass or touch of class to make something happen in the attack.
O’Neil needs to change the way Sunderland play and quick, relying on Seb Larsson’s free-kick ability and wonder strikes from 30 yards will not carry a team through to a respectable finish in the league this season. January looms.