Last weekends’ draw at home to Aston Villa saw Steve Bruce’ claim his side would soon “click together” and that consequently the team’s results would improve. Had Stephane Sessengnon’s late intervention not garnered a point, that improvement may well have been somebody else’s concern, but to be fair to the manager, some analysis of his summer recruits may bring cause for optimism.
It was always going to be difficult for the side to perform cohesively in the early parts of the season. There were many new faces in the dressing room, not to mention the late departure of Asamoah Gyan. To give Bruce his dues, two of those summer signings have begun to make their mark at the Stadium of Light, and could already be viewed as a success given their early contributions on Wearside.
Bruce remarked at the weekend that Seb Larsson was the best free transfer signing of the summer. Putting aside scepticism about self praise for a moment, an analysis of Larsson’s contribution to Sunderland’s campaign thus far would appear to support Bruce’ testimony.
Below is a comparative figure to show Larsson’s contribution (mainly in an attacking sense) compared to that of the teams for this season.
|Pass Completion %||70.19 %||60.94 %|
|Accurate Total Crosses||48||27|
|Cross Accuracy %||21%||30%|
|Mins per Chance Created||9.23||29|
Larsson’s pass completion ratio is way down on the team average. This is due in large part to the fact that he receives the ball in attacking areas and is therefore under more pressure. It is clear that Larsson’s role within the team is to try to find space out wide from which to deliver telling crosses for the attackers. To this end he is performing exceptionally well for the team.
Larsson has provided 56.2% of the teams accurate crosses over the season to date. In addition, having produced 27 of the team’s total of 103, he is responsible for 26.2% of the total chances created by the team. Having either scored or created 5 out of 14 , he has been directly involved in 35.7 % of team’s goals this season. Certainly impressive stats for the beginning of his Sunderland career; and a vindication of sorts for Bruce’ deployment of the Swede.
Another summer signing, David Vaughan, has managed to displace the much maligned Lee Cattermole in recent weeks. Sunderland had difficulty in forming cohesive attacks in the opening weeks of the season, and a comparison of Vaughan and Cattermole is instructive as to why this has improved.
|Sunderland||David Vaughan||Lee Cattermole|
|Ground 50/50 %||48%||61%||53%|
|Tackle success %||78%||82%||85%|
|Loss of Possession||134||3||8|
|Mins per loss of Poss||7||150||59|
|Total Accurate Passes||2991||226||139|
It should be noted that Cattermole (474) has played 23 minutes more league action this season than Vaughan (451). Despite this, Vaughan’s successful passes outstrip the club captain by a good distance. In addition, Vaughan’s pass completion ratio will compare favourably with most midfielders, not just in the Premier League, but across Europe. It is clear that Vaughan is the more composed of the two, certainly the stats suggest he is more inclined to get on the ball.
In addition Vaughan’s win percentage of ground 50/50’s is vastly superior to that of the team as a whole and indeed Cattermole’s. This gives credence to the notion that he is operating effectively as a shield for the back four.
Furthermore Vaughan has lost possession on only three occasions this season, an impressive statistic and one Bruce should be loathe to overlook. Cattermole has endured some heavy criticism (most of it justified), and it appears from the stats that Bruce has made the right choice in relegating his captain to the bench.
If as hoped, the new attackers can begin to find their form, and Vaughan and Larsson can maintain their level of contribution, then Bruce’ early season claims that the team ‘would do well’ will not appear so fanciful.
This weekend’s trip to Old Trafford will be a tough assignment for the Mackems. After that, the side play Fulham (h), Wigan (h), Wolves(a) and Blackburn(h). The last four are all eminently winnable games and after the home game against Blackburn, fans will know a lot more about the direction in which the team is headed. Do well and they can start thinking about the top half again. Should things go badly, a dogfight for survival could be on the cards.