Former Tottenham midfielder Gustavo Poyet brings his Black Cats to the Lane for Spurs vs Sunderland in the Premier League.
Nine goals in back-to-back games at White Hart Lane have seen a real reversal of fortunes from earlier in the season.
A home game with struggling Sunderland would therefore seem rife for more goalmouth action. However, the Black Cats have been tough to break down on their travels. They’ve kept clean sheets in four of their last five Premier League matches away from home. What’s more they’ve only conceded three times since their 8-0 mauling at Southampton back in October.
Gus Poyet’s side are the draw specialists. So, to avoid becoming another victim, what should we be on the lookout for and what should be on the radar in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Sunderland this time?
1. Attacking the Sunderland right back
Despite Sunderland’s miserly defence on their recent travels, one area has been consistent to them conceding chances and goals. This has been their susceptibility to allowing opportunities through their right back zone, a position often frequented by Santiago Vergini.
Way back in September, when we visited the Stadium of Light in Sunderland 2 Spurs 2, Vergini was exposed on both of our goals.
Firstly, Nacer Chadli peeled off of him to open the scoring. Then the Belgian got in-behind him again to square for Christian Eriksen to add a second.
Vergini can often be caught playing narrow, but his positioning can also see him susceptible to the ball played in-behind. It’s a problem the Black Cats had back at the start of the season and it’s one that has continued throughout.
Back in October Southampton detonated Sunderland 8-0 and a number of their chances, as well as goals, came through Vergini’s right back zone.
And it still continues. Sunderland’s last away Premier League match at the Etihad saw Man City score three times from getting beyond the right back.
Clichy provided two of the assists, his first cross here saw Vergini pinching in as the City full back picked out Stevan Jovetic.
Clichy’s second cross saw him get behind the full back once more after James Milner’s flick round the corner put him in again. Clichy perfectly picked out Frank Lampard to head home.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Sunderland this time should focus on attacking right back Santiago Vergini. Getting Danny Rose or Ben Davies forward beyond the inside cutting Nacer Chadli is imperative.
2. Avoiding the centre
What goes hand-in-hand with attacking Sunderland’s right back zone is avoiding the centre of their side.
Gus Poyet had frequent problems last season with his team shipping chances through the middle and tried several tactics to address it. This included moving to a back three amongst other things. However, he seems to have settled on playing either Liam Bridcutt or Lee Cattermole in front of his defence and getting additional bodies in the centre.
We saw this central congestion on our trip to the stadium of light earlier in the season.
And it’s still something Poyet continues to do. He went with a central three in front of what turned out for long periods to be a back six against Man City, as he had his back four play narrow and his wide midfielders drop deep.
Now this was at the Etihad and Poyet won’t be so negative here, but we will need to navigate the central congestion part, which continues to be a theme.
This was from their trip to QPR where they again got bodies in to the middle of the pitch, forcing shots from range.
This was also a key feature in their recent 0-0 draw with Chelsea where Mourinho’s men were forced in to pot shots from distance. 18 of their 24 efforts were from outside the box with a number of them blocked.
After a dour first half in their last away Premier League match, Man City opened the scoring and thus opened up the game, thanks to a thunderbolt from outside the box by Yaya Toure. City too were forced in to a number of long-range efforts by Sunderland’s set up. After Toure’s strike, the game became extremely open as Sunderland were forced to chase.
This deep lying, central congestion type of team is exactly the one with which we have struggled to break down this season. The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Sunderland should look at quickly shifting the ball in to wide areas and trying to avoid getting sucked in to the shooting from distance trap. Chelsea couldn’t break it and Man City were fortunate to. A lead could bust this game wide open.
Sunderland are a counter attacking team, so it may be thought that it would be wise to drop off and try and lure them out. This is a potential tactic, but other equally non-aggressive sides have been the ones that have succumbed to the 0-0 draws on Sunderland’s travels.
Teams that have had success have pressed and tried to create turnovers quickly before Sunderland can get their defence set. We did this well at the Stadium of Light, but twice threw away a lead. Southampton didn’t though, they pressed early and created a number of turnovers in the Sunderland half in their 8-0 demolition of the Black Cats.
Sunderland’s only away loss in their 6 away trips since that humiliation came against Man City. The Citizens also worked hard to regain the ball in the Black Cats’ half of the field.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Sunderland would do well to see us play a high pressing game.
4. Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson is the x-factor in this match. A rare spark plug in the Sunderland side, he has the ability to ghost past defenders, create chances for others and score goals.
Johnson usually plays on the right, but in our visit to the Stadium of light, Gus Poyet moved him over to the left to match up on stand-in full back Eric Dier. This saw him isolate the out of position centre back and he was a thorn in our side all match.
With Dier now on the periphery and two genuine full backs now in our side, Johnson shouldn’t have such an easy match-up, but he still will be a problem.
His cut inside a driven effort off the bar against Liverpool last weekend showed how dangerous he can be. Three goals in his last five Premier League matches also hint that he is coming in to some form. With a forward coming in that can run in-behind, something Sunderland don’t have, he may form a decent partnership with Jermain Defoe.
5. Set pieces and discipline
Gus Poyet was always a danger at set pieces with his height and leaping ability and dead ball situations are something he coaches his team well in.
The Black Cats have several different types of dead ball routines, but they seem to centre around bunches and miss-direction.
Their opening goal in their last away Premier League match came from a Jack Rodwell header after a bunch of Sunderland players attacked the near post. Poyet had four players in his bunch, but also a man at the front post (1) and back post (2) for rebound control to try and keep the ball in the six-yard box.
His set play routines also centre on miss-direction. Here we can see how the man at the near post takes the defender away, allowing the bunch to steam in towards that area.
Jack Rodwell scorea once more here with a header, proving again to be a pest in the air at set pieces.
Whilst Sunderland are good at dead ball situations, they do struggle with discipline. The have received the most yellow cards in the Premier League this season and do give away fouls in high-risk areas.
We saw this in our game at the Stadium of Light, where they couldn’t handle Erik Lamela’s bursts through central midfield.
Against Liverpool last weekend they also gave up a number of free kicks in high-risk areas.
Christian Eriksen is a dead ball specialist and I wouldn’t bet against him either scoring or creating from a free kick situation in Spurs vs Sunderland on Saturday.
Spurs vs Sunderland outlook
After the flurry of goals we’ve seen at the Lane, this might not continue in the same vein. Sunderland are difficult to break down and will set up to be as pesky to play through as they can be.
Even if Mauricio Pochettino plays with inverted wide men, he will still require width from somewhere and our full backs will be key choices here. Kyle Walker is a natural selection, but Danny Rose should be preferred to the less attack-minded Ben Davies.
Jermain Defoe’s return to the Lane will be the major story. The former Spurs man hasn’t played since October though and so may only be fit enough for a seat on the bench.
Spurs vs Sunderland prediction: Spurs 1 Sunderland 0.
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