Stoke City V Sunderland | A preview

Stoke City V Sunderland | A preview

Stadium of Light, Sunderland – 6/11/2010

Referee – Martin Atkinson

Sunderland – Mignolet; Onuoha, Mensah, Turner, Bardslet; Henderson, Malbranque, Cattermole, Al-Muhammadi; Gyan (Goal x 2), Wellbeck. Subs – Richardson for Malbranque, Ferdinand for Mensah, Zenden for Al-Muhammadi.

Stoke City – Begovic; Huth (Yellow), Shawcross (Red), Wilson, Faye (Yellow); Etherington, Whitehead, Collins, Walters (Yellow); Jones, Tuncay. Subs – Fuller (Yellow) for Walters, Delap for Whitehead.

It was a much closer game than the scoreline suggested, with Sunderland edging out Stoke in the possession stakes – 56.2% to 43.8%, while also managing one more shot on target than Stoke’s 4. Stoke managed 187 accurate passes to Sunderland’s 282, with the Mackems having the higher completion rate of 75% to Stoke’s 65%.

In defence, Sunderland won slightly more tackles with 18 to Stokes 13, whilst Stoke won 64 possession duels to their opponents 60, and winning 9 more times in the air – 24 to 15. Surprisingly, Sunderland made 23 more interceptions than Stoke’s 6, made 25 more effective clearances and 19 more headed clearances. All of this comes out of the anti-Stoke playbook of course.

Throw in update – Stoke managed a 56% success rate in this game, managing to complete 23 out of 41 throw ins; compared to 8 out 17 (47%) in their last game against Liverpool, their success rate is improving much in such a simple area of the game. Sunderland both attempted, and completed more long balls; with similar stats in their games this season against West Brom, Norwich and Liverpool. Conclusive proof that Stoke aren’t a long ball team? Or proof that every other team is.

In their last game, Stoke struggled to make a statistical impact against Liverpool, but ended up with a win. In my opinion, this trend will continue against the top teams – they struggled to a draw against Chelsea on the first day of the season, but had much more success whilst playing West Brom and Norwich.

It’s entirely plausible that Stoke will find their middle ground against Sunderland, a team who were tipped to impress this season, but as of yet have yet to find their rhythm. Currently 16th on two points, Steve Bruce’s men also have to contend with the loss of star striker Asamoah Gyan after his loan move to Al Ain FC, based in the city of the same name in the United Arab Emirates. Will this be the chance for Connor Wickham to show that he was a sound investment, or will Bruce look to Sessegnon to lead the line like he did so often last season?

In midweek, Stoke got an important draw in the Europa League. They gave a competent, if slightly nervy first half performance, bit showed their class in the second. Their main problem was their slightly standoffish approach in their own half, allowing important Dynamo players more time on the ball than needed. On the plus side, Jones seemed to be at his fighting best, Shotton gave a good account of himself and Jerome showed why Pulis splashed out on him, with a goal on his debut. Worryingly for Stoke is the lack of options out with the first choice 18-20 players, highlighted with an under numbered bench and the recall of Salif Diao, who only made 8 Premier League appearances last season. All in all, a very good result for Stoke, taking on a strong Dynamo side away from home and coming away with a point.

Okay, so I’ve been accused of being harsh on Stoke from blog one. And to be fair, the stats back up 99% of my criticisms. I do realise, however, that football is a results business, and thus far, Stoke have been getting them left, right and centre. The point of this site is that this is a statistics blog, and for me to disregard the stats in order to say that the only thing that matters is the final score would not only make for a very short blog each week, but also would be doing the purpose of this site a disservice.

So enjoy this weekend’s football, and remember that oh so famous quote –

“Someone said ‘football is more important than life and death to you’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.”

Bill Shankly, 1981