HomeOTHEREPLCattermole & Vaughan | Winning Formula

Cattermole & Vaughan | Winning Formula

Man Manager Martin

Finally, Sunderlands’ season has taken off and things are starting to look rosy again on Wearside. Now sitting in 10th position in the league after an emphatic win at the DW Stadium on Tuesday, quite how Martin O’Neill has transformed a club in such a short space of time is anyone’s guess. The secret may well lie in what Steve Bruce might like to think of as a parting gift in the shape of David Vaughan.

The diminutive midfielder, Blackpools’ Player of the Season last term, has played a heavy part in O’Neills’ breath taking opening scene. So why did Bruce deny the midfielder a run in the first team? The best run of games Vaughan got under Bruces’ stewardship was 3 consecutive games. A more alarming fact is that Bruce did not seem to realise the solitary two wins that Sunderland mustered under him, Vaughan was starting in midfield. The answer to Sunderlands’ complicated enigma was right in front of him, Bruces’ failure has been O’Neills’ triumph.

SkySports Festive Form

The last 4 games Sunderland have opted for a Cattermole – Vaughan partnership in centre midfield and it has worked, Sunderland now unbeaten in 4 and top of the form league over the festive season.

It is the first time this season that Sunderland have had anything close to a settled side, especially in midfield. If you look at the featured table you will see that there has been no consistent partnership in midfield prior to O’Neill’s appointment, Bruce changed his team after every loss – which let’s be honest Sunderland fans, has been pretty regular! The only time this hasn’t happened was after the 1-0 loss to Man Utd, where Steve Bruce claimed the team had put in ‘a terrific performance’.

Sunderland form: Centre Midfield

O’Neills’ only loss to date was away to Spurs in his second game and the midfield duo was changed for the following game with QPR. Lee Cattermole had been suspended for O’Neills’ debut and Jack Colbacks’ performance alongside Vaughan in the Blackburn game had obviously merited another start. Between them they averaged 85% pass completion.

Sunderland have achieved an 85% pass completion rate between their centre midfielders just 7 times from a possible 20 this season, they have only lost twice when this happens (both away games to heavyweights Manchester Utd and Spurs). Considering their record in the Premier League this season, achieving an 85% pass completion rate between your men in the middle has been an indicative factor in how the match result will end.

The most successful midfield partnership is what O’Neill prefers at the moment, Cattermole and Vaughan; they have achieved 3 wins together. The second most successful partnership is Colback and Vaughan, with 2 wins. The other win came with Gardner and Vaughan up against European debutants Stoke City as fresh as John Terry’s bed sheets after their midweek tour.

One thing O’Neill has had complimented to him in recent weeks is his ability to get more from his players. Robbie Savage hailed him this week ‘the best there is in man management’. O’Neill has claimed his players now feel ‘unbeatable’, none more so than his captain, a study of Cattermole’s statistics show a real upturn in performance since the overhaul in management. Cattermole claimed the Man of the Match award in Sunderlands’ New Years Day victory over Manchester City, deservedly so. His possession duels win ratio has bumped from 45% to 56%, so he is winning the ball back more often for his team.  Cattermole plays a pass on average once every 138 seconds, Vaughan passes every 113. So with Cattermoles’ endeavour to pressure the opposition, it makes sense to put Vaughan in next to him who can be composed and dictate where Sunderland keep possession.

Under Bruce this season, Cattermole averaged 40 passes per game, however he is averaging 35 at the moment with O’Neill in charge and playing alongside Vaughan. Basically, Cattermole is being coached to concentrate more on winning the ball back for Sunderland and leaving it to other creative players such as Vaughan, Sessegnon, McClean et al to do the attacking, which is playing to his strengths.

David Vaughan: Sidekick

So the Premier Leagues newest Manager of the Months’ secret is playing players in their position and in a role they are familiar with. This is where Sunderland fans lamented Steve Bruce’s tactics, insisting on playing Kieran Richardson for example, a pacey winger at left back. O’Neill is back with a bang in the Premier League, Sunderland have rediscovered their mojo. Chelsea are next up for the Black Cats at Stamford Bridge and with players now believing anything possible under O’Neill, who would bet against the Black Cats and their Midfield winning formula.

Enjoy all sports, football is my love. I am a Sport Development graduate trying to find a way to climb a tree full of monkeys... Follow on Twitter @MSBurkey
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